By MATT HOPF
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
The Quincy Traffic Commission is recommending that a four-way stop be installed at Front and Hampshire at the request of the owner of Johnny Bang Bang's, who says a national franchise is looking to operate in the closed nightclub.
Owner Duane Venvertloh said he signed a non-disclosure agreement with the franchise and could provde few details, but confirmed that it would be a restaurant and bar. He expects the restaurant to employ between 75 and 100 people and served 500 to 600 patrons a day. Hours of operation will be between 11 a.m. and 10 or 11 p.m.
The recommendation now heads to the Quincy City Council, which can concur with or modify the request.
The commission met in special session Thursday at the request of 7th Ward Alderman Jack Holtschlag. The request for the four-way stop was originally tabled for 30 days at the Feb. 11 Traffic Commission meeting because not enough information was provided.
"If you get somebody who is going to stick a half-million dollars, three-quarters of a million dollars, we've got to jump at it," Holtschlag said.
Venvertloh said the restaurant would use available parking in the area and not request any additional spaces.
"Their concern was public safety of their patrons," he said of the four-way stop. "While it necessarily wouldn't be their liability, they didn't want to be associated with something that could be harmful to their patrons.
"They won't move forward until this is put to rest."
The recommendation included a provision that the city would negotiate with the franchise on when to install the signs.
Traffic Commission member Paul Holtschlag said while the four-way stop doesn't necessarily meet the criteria, it could help bring an employer to town.
"If we could bring an employer to town that is going to employ 75 people and generate sales tax and revenues in other ways, I think it's something this commission ought to be considering," he said.
Paul Holtschlag said the state installed traffic signals at Fifth and Broadway on the city's recommendation in anticipation of the opening of the Kroc Center.
City Engineer Jeff Steinkamp said traffic counts show 1,450 vehicles on Front Street and 800 on Hampshire daily. He said he supported adding the signs with the expected increase in pedestrian traffic once the business opens.
"I know they're going to gang up around lunch time and supper time," he said. "Fifty to 60 people an hour in that area trying to cross somewhere warrants things like that."
After the meeting, Venvertloh said a more detailed announcement about the franchise should be made in about 30 days after the council approves installing the four-way stop.
The former home of Backwaters, Johnny's opened in mid-2011 as a nightclub and performance venue. Venvertloh announced in January that the club closed for major renovations after it had not reapplied for its city liquor license.