Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Atlas Life Restaurants in Tulsa Work toward the Coming Hotel

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Atlas Life Restaurants in Tulsa Work toward the Coming Hotel

Article excerpt

While many restaurants have struggled through this national recession, imagine maintaining that cash flow with someone else's 13- story construction project literally hanging over your head.

That's the challenge facing downtown Tulsa's Atlas Grill, Courtyard Deli and Tulsa Press Club.

There's a lot to look forward to, since all the demolition and dust they've endured over the past six months will leave them tenants under the 118-room Courtyard by Marriott Hotel owner SJS Hospitality hopes to complete in June 2010. That promises a steady revenue stream for years to come.

"If the hotel's a big success and they have a lot of people staying in the hotel, we may open up for dinner," said Jeff Nickel, who with Jacob Robinson owns the Atlas Grill.

But in the meantime, all that work to rejuvenate the 87-year-old Atlas Life Building has brought with it all the unpredictable headaches you might expect, from power outages to cloudy residue.

"If you've ever lived through a construction project at home ... it's probably more challenging when you live through it than when you anticipate it," said Dan Harrison, president of the press club. "It has been challenging and has been an impact on our business."

Some observers suggested 50 percent or more of their traffic has disappeared. Nickel said his business has dropped only 4 to 5 percent. Harrison couldn't discuss it.

"I don't want to talk about it," Courtyard Deli owner Brian Cho said. "What other choice do I have? I have to stay open."

The drain comes at a difficult time for eateries, with the recession slamming consumer and business spending. The National Restaurant Association performance index fell in June for the second straight month, ending below 100 for the 20th straight month.

Although water leaks or lost air conditioning might have seemed the biggest nightmares when contractor Thomas Construction started upper-floor demolition work, Harrison and Nickel pointed instead to the protective scaffolding surrounding the Atlas Life Building entrance.

Even with the plastic signs SJS hung proclaiming the restaurants remain in business, Nickel said many customers see the scaffolding and turn away. …

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