Interest is picking up in the Blue Rooster, the Old Town Lilburn landmark that has been vacant for a little more than a year.
Three parties have expressed an interest recently in renting the building for a restaurant or cafe, according to Doug Stacks, planning and economic director for Lilburn.
One of them, Candace Hawkins, prepared a meal for the Downtown Development Authority at its meeting Wednesday night. A Lilburnite for about 10 years, Hawkins grew up in Louisiana and specializes in southern creole cuisine. She owned Candi's for Breakfast in the Old Fourth Ward in Atlanta.
"Atlanta likes frou-frou food," Hawkins told the DDA. "But my motto's always been: I don't do pretty, but I sure do good." Hawkins said the space she rented in the Irwin Street Market was just too confusing too work for her restaurant there.
Rebecca and Nathan Calhoun are also interested in renting the Blue Rooster for a cafe that would serve house-made soups, sandwiches, baked goods and salads, much like the menu at Blue House Cafe in Norcross, Rebecca Calhoun told the DDA. The couple just recently started looking into the possibility and will make a presentation at next month's DDA meeting.
Whoever rents it, it won't be really soon. The DDA, which bought the property last fall, is considering putting in some basic equipment, such as a hot water tank. The building was stripped of everything by the bank that owned it after foreclosure last year, from the chandelier to the walk-in cooler.
Demetrius Galfas, a sales representative from Atlanta Fixture and Sales Company, volunteered at the meeting to put together a list of what's needed, with estimates of cost, for the place to pass health department inspections and function as a restaurant again. That could be used by the DDA to show potential renters.
Scott Mecredy, who owns Music on Main Street, volunteered to research what inspections the building needs.
Hawkins estimates that she would have to invest $65,000 to equip and furnish the place, a figure that more than a few on the DDA felt was conservative. Hawkins said she's pulled together about 10 percent of that, and she's looking for funding, but bank loans, especially for restaurants, are difficult to get these days.
Franky Capobianco, a master baker and former business partner of Hawkins' in Atlanta, would like to rent the house across the street and open an Italian bakery and market, which would supply Hawkins' restaurant.
"We feel our food would be more appreciated in Lilburn" than Atlanta, he said.
The DDA bought the property last fall in a bid to get a business in there as quickly as possible. People had expressed interest in renting the place, Stacks said back then, but the bank that owned it could only sell it, not rent it out. Too, by buying the place, the DDA can determine what sort of business moves into it.