ALLENTOWN, Pa. - A Brazilian steakhouse named Rodizio Grill is scheduled to open by mid-May in the former Bob Evans restaurant along Lehigh Street at Interstate 78 in south Allentown.
It will offer rotisserie grilled beef, pork, poultry, lamb and seafood, all carved tableside by waiters dressed as gauchos, South American cowboys. They will bring the meats to customers' tables on three-foot-long skewers.
"My mouth is already watering," said Julio Guridy, Allentown City Council president, after council unanimously approved a liquor license transfer for the restaurant on Wednesday night.
City Council held a public hearing about the new restaurant before approving that transfer.
Despite the liquor license, Rodizio Grill was presented to council as "family friendly."
It will have 254 seats, but only 12 stools at the bar. "This is not a big bar business," said Atty. Theodore Zeller III, who represented the restaurant. Zeller told council no more than 15 percent of the revenue will be from alcohol sales. "This is just an add-on, a complement to the food service."
The Bob Evans restaurant on that site – 2805 Lehigh Street -- has been closed for nearly two years, said Kevin O'Leary, one of Rodizio Grill's owners. He said construction to turn the building into Rodizio Grill will begin by Feb. 18. "We hope to open by Mother's Day but the middle of May probably is more realistic."
O'Leary said the restaurant will have the quality of a high-end Brazilian steakhouse in a large metropolitan area, but will be much more affordable. He said dinners will cost $27, including unlimited appetizers, salad bar and meat selection. Unlimited lunches will cost $17.
Zeller called it "a small national high-end franchise" He said the first Rodizio Grill is in Denver, Colo. "There are only 12 of these nationally," said Zeller. "We are very proud this is coming to the Lehigh Valley and the City of Allentown."
"I commend Mr. Leary for moving into Allentown," said Ray O'Connell, council vice president.
O'Leary called it the only authentic Brazilian steakhouse among the larger chains.
It will be open every day of the week and will employ 60 people, 40 of them full-time, said O'Leary.
The liquor license is being transferred from the closed Mangos restaurant at 3750 Hamilton Blvd. in South Whitehall Township.
Zeller said Rodizio Grill's owners have four restaurants, including The Melting Pot of Bethlehem. He maintained they have more than 30 years of combined restaurant experience, but "zero" liquor license violations.
Council member Peter Schweyer said he lives near The Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery, which is next to the Rodizio Grill location. Schweyer said he's never observed any problems at Tilted Kilt "and that has a significantly bigger bar than they are talking about" for Rodizio Grill.
That was confirmed by Capt. Daryl Hendricks of Allentown police, who told council police have had "no issues whatsoever" at Tilted Kilt since it opened.
Also during council's meeting:
- Jordan Smith of Catasauqua was hired at the city's newest police officer. Assistant Police Chief Joseph Hanna told council the department now has 214 officers and plans to get to 216.
- Money for the city fire department to purchase four multi-gas surveyors, which detect leaks, is included in a $50,000 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation that was accepted by council. Lauren Giguere, the city's grants coordination manager, said about 20 percent of the grant will be used to purchase those detectors. She explained most of the grant will used for Mayor Ed Pawlowski to work with mayors of other cities across the country where gas line explosions have occurred. They will create a Mayors Council on Pipeline Safety, which will be a national initiative. Giguere said after the city's fatal gas explosion in March 2011, Pawlowski became quite concerned about what he as a mayor could do to advocate for better pipeline safety.
- It was announced that 700 people are expected to attend a May 24 event being planned by United Youth Party, an activist group founded two years ago by students at Roberto Clemente Charter School in Allentown. The group's mission is to get more young people involved in social issues in the city and "empower their voice." One of its goals is to get a "youth plaza" in the proposed Lehigh River waterfront redevelopment. The group hopes council will pass a resolution supporting its event, which will be at the Holiday Inn at 9th and Hamilton streets.
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