MUNSTER | The forthcoming closure of The Charley Horse Restaurant in Munster may cramp some people's plans for dining or watching the Blackhawks.
The restaurant and hockey-focused sports bar – the last remaining location of a small local chain – is closing down after a farewell bash this Sunday. About 130 people once worked at the eatery, which originally was planned to be Savard's Hall of Fame Restaurant until former Blackhawks player and coach Denis Savard backed out of the venture.
"After four years of service, Charley Horse will be closing its door for good on Jan. 5," the restaurant announced on its website and Facebook page. "We would like to thank you all for your patronage over the years and we invite you to come out and celebrate with us one final time."
Operating manager Bryan Sord said the lease was up and he decided not to renew because business had been slowly declining over the last five months. He estimated it dropped off by about 50 percent.
"The restaurant side got really slow," he said. "I drive around and check out other places, and they're not very busy. I wonder what's going on around here."
Several once-popular region restaurants have recently closed, including Northwoods Hearty Home Cookin' and Saloon in St. John, Rick’s Grill in Griffith, and Popolano's in Lansing.
Sord decided to close the 200-seat Charley Horse restaurant for good after mailing $10 off coupons to remind people that his business existed, and hardly getting any response.
"People get excited when new restaurants open, and tend to forget the older places," he said. "It's just so sad that it's closing."
Sord also manages 94 West Steak and Seafood in Orland Park, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary and will remain open. 94 West will honor any unused Charley Horse gift cards.
Charley Horse once had three restaurants, but the Tinley Park location closed in 2012 and the New Lenox restaurant shut down in February.
"The concept's done," he said. "We really, really tried to survive."
The Charley Horse Restaurant at 8940 Calumet Ave in Munster served American fare, such as burgers, steaks and ribs. The 6,000-square-foot eatery had a large sports bar that brimmed with hockey jerseys, pennants and other memorabilia. A huge mural features Bears linebacker Dick Butkus and other Chicago sports icons.
Current and former Blackhawks such as Bobby Hull and Brandon Saad often stopped by to sign autographs for fans. Lines would wrap around the building.
Previously, the restaurant had been a Charlie's Ale House, which was open from 2004 until 2009. The now-defunct chain attempted to replicate the ambiance of a turn-of-the-century Chicago saloon, which is why the building has tin ceilings, a Brunswick-style bar and Corinthian columns.
Crown Point-based ATG Corp. originally developed the property at the Cambridge Center at the southwest corner of Calumet Avenue and Fisher street, across Community Hospital. The owner of the building could not be reached for comment.