LIMA — Dust was everywhere, no doubt coming from the brick wall that used to run down the center of what once was the Main Street Bistro. Toward the back of the building, framework was being assembled for a kitchen area. As the few people inside checked things out, John Heaphy slipped away almost unnoticed.
This was his moment.
A half hour earlier, he had announced to the Lima Rotary Club he would be opening a new upscale downtown restaurant. Now, he was placing a large drawing in the window of what will be known as Old City Prime.
It felt good. Heaphy was back downtown, where he began his restaurant career 32 years ago. More importantly, a building was being brought back to life.
“The right time to open this restaurant is now,” Heaphy emphatically said. “I’ve been looking at doing this for three years, and with all of the momentum going on in downtown Lima, the potential for a fine dining restaurant is as good as it has been in years.”
Targeted to open in September, the restaurant will serve lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. Steaks and seafood will be the signature dishes.
“If something is going on at the Civic Center on a Sunday, we’ll open then too,” Heaphy said. "To be successful, you have to be open when your customers want you open.”
Reservations will be taken, and valet parking will be available. Diners will enter under a large canopy. Inside, they’ll be greeted by a large circular bar where the brick wall once stood, surrounded by an elegant dining area.
“It’s going to have the feel of an old-time Chicago restaurant,” Heaphy said.
Upstairs on weekends, live music will play, ranging from soft rock to jazz and blues.
“The music will reflect the community. It will be fun, a place for people younger and older to enjoy,” Heaphy said.
Mark R. Jarvis, who owns the building along with his mother, Karen Rust Jarvis, is excited about the new venture with Heaphy.
“We’re pretty thrilled to put this building back in use,” Jarvis said. “I come from a family that’s always had a vision of what could be, and it’s so exciting to work with John because he shares that same type of pride and vision in this community.”
Lima has been without a fine dining restaurant downtown for three years.
The Main Street Bistro first opened on South Main Street in 1998. It temporarily closed in 2007 after a legal dispute over a lease. Nearly six months later, it reopened one storefront away at 219 S. Main St. That building burned down in January 2010.
Heaphy has been in the restaurant business for 32 years, with an eight-year break in the late 1980s and early 90s when he worked for Gordon Foods. He built a successful chain of Happy Daz restaurants that circle the Lima metro area and then added Beer Barrel restaurants in Lima and St. Marys. Another Beer Barrel is schedule to open soon in Findlay.