(Cincinnati) -- It may have started as some good-natured ribbing, but Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Seelbach is serious about bringing a Willie's Sports Café to Over-the-Rhine, or Downtown.
Seelbach issued the challenge to the founder of the chain, Newsradio 700WLW's Bill Cunningham, while a guest on the show, last week. He says along the streetcar route would be fine. He says with condominiums in OTR selling for nearly a half-million dollars, opening a business along the yet unfinished line, is "one of the smartest investments you can make in the region".
Willie's already has five locations in the Tri-State, but Seelbach says bringing the chain to OTR would not hurt the neighborhood's unique flavor of small businesses. "We don't want Downtown, Over-the-Rhine to become a place where we have Olive Gardens, and Texas Roadhouse,... every other place. But I think we have mostly original, small business restaurants, and so one chain would be okay", he says.
Seelbach says Willie's would fill a niche, for people who might not be drawn to the Central Business District otherwise. "We want everyone to feel welcome in Over-the-Rhine," he says.
The Councilman says the message goes out, not just to Willie's, but to anyone with a legitimate business plan, and backing. He says his office will help however they can. But, Seelbach says an interest-free loan should "not be off the table, but it's very unlikely", referring to Mahogany's, at the Banks, which has come under fire after struggling to repay a laon from the City. "I don't think we should be in the business of subsidizing restaurants, but, there are some cases where, extreme cases, where maybe it would make sense for us to help someone, that would bring something that's not here," he says.