Champps Americana in Dubuque will close its doors this spring, and an Old Chicago restaurant will open in that space weeks later.
Champps opened within the Best Western Plus, 3100 Dodge St., in 2008. The restaurant and bar will close at some point in April, according to Frontier Hospitality Group co-owner Dan Huber.
The group owns — and will continue to own — the Dodge Street property. Huber said Dubuque-based ROC Taproom purchased the assets of Champps and will convert the space into an Old Chicago restaurant.
Founded in 1976, Old Chicago specializes in Chicago-style pizzas, taproom classics and craft beer. It has more than 100 restaurants in 22 states.
Huber said there are many similarities between Champps and Old Chicago, but he believes that the latter offers a particularly strong draft-beer selection, loyalty program and menu.
“In general, I think it is a stronger, more well-supported concept nationally,” Huber said. “I think it will be very, very popular in Dubuque.”
He said just shy of 100 employees work at Champps.
“There will be no layoffs, and all employees will be hired at their current wage rate,” Huber said.
ROC Taproom acquired its first four Old Chicago locations in July, according to President Jeff Ruppel. It now owns four such restaurants in Iowa and one each in Illinois and Indiana.
Ruppel is also the president of Parco Ltd., which owns 29 Wendy’s restaurants in Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota.
He said he thinks area residents will quickly take a liking to Old Chicago menu items such as Italian nachos and Chicago-style pizza. He hopes the restaurant also will tap into the area’s interest in beer.
“We consider ourselves the beer authority and offer a great selection of beer-friendly food,” Ruppel said. “I think Dubuque is a perfect place for (the restaurant), and I think people will be excited about it.”
The restaurant space will be closed for about three weeks when the new tenant makes renovations and trains staff on the new restaurant concept.
“The facility is in really great shape, but there still are some changes we need to make,” Ruppel said. “We are going to polish things up, put in some new furniture and change up the color schemes. The biggest thing will be revamping the kitchen to get in the equipment we need.”
Huber said the initial terms of the lease are for 10 years and the agreement could extend as far as 25 years.
He noted that all events in banquet rooms within the hotel will be unaffected by the restaurant change. All gift cards to Champps will be honored by Old Chicago.
The announcement of Champps’ impending closure comes just days before the restaurant chain’s 10th anniversary in Dubuque.
Huber acknowledged that many customers will miss the restaurant, but he said the future of the space will be even brighter.
“Champps has had a terrific run and has been very well supported by the community,” he said. “It is fair to say it is one of the more popular restaurants in the Dubuque area. We caught a great wave with Champps, and we are hoping to catch an even bigger one with Old Chicago.”