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Outback Steakhouse building new Merrillville restaurant

Detective Niko Zairis with the Lake County sheriff's police serves drinks to Kara Farias, Kaitlin Bullock and Lilly White, 5, at the Outback Steakhouse, in Merrillville, at a charity Christmas event in 2014. Outback is replacing the steakhouse with a new location across the street at U.S. 30 and Mississippi Street.

Outback Steakhouse is grilling up a new location in Merrillville in the bustling Southlake Mall retail trade area.

The Australian-themed steakhouse chain, known for its Bloomin' Onions, griddled steaks and imported Foster's Lager, is building a new 6,500-square-foot restaurant at the corner of U.S. 30 and Mississippi Street. The Tampa-based company, which has nearly 1,000 restaurants worldwide, plans to open the new 238-seat eatery as early as February.

Employees from the existing Merrillville location at 8117 Georgia St. will transfer to the new steakhouse on the northeast side of the Interstate 65 interchange with U.S. 30, said Elizabeth Watts, spokeswoman for Outback parent company Bloomin' Brands. Outback will hire about 30 more people to staff the bigger restaurant.

The Merrillville Outback just needed a fresher look, she said.

"We’re committed to maintaining a contemporary atmosphere in each of our restaurants," Watts said. "When the new restaurant opens, guests will notice the updated 'Modern Australia' design featuring décor that mirrors the indigenous flora and fauna, adventure, geography and leisure of modern day Australia."

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The new restaurant will have an open floor plan with a spacious bar and lounge area featuring customized seating and furnishings, she said.

Outback opened its Merrillville restaurant, its sole location in Northwest Indiana, in 2002. It is on the southwest side of the I-65/U.S. 30 interchange.

The new steakhouse will be located in the Southlake Pointe shopping center, where a new Ashley Furniture Homestore recently opened.

The opening date for the new Outback is to be announced.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.