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The newest Champs Sports Grill location at 1611 North Atherton Street
The newest Champs Sports Grill location at 1611 North Atherton Street
Few restaurants can claim their opening nights were big enough to attract Santa Claus, but Champs in Downtown State College was fortunate to have a few hundred stop by.
Originally located at 1611 North Atherton St., Champs opened a branch downtown and officially took over the space previously operated by Chili’s on Dec. 12, the night of the 10th annual Santa Crawl in State College. Champs is the fifth restaurant opened by Happy Valley Restaurants since 1986.
“This one plans to be the best and most attractive property,” Champs General Manager Dante Lucchesi said.
Lucchesi, who has been a manager for five years, spoke about the renovations Happy Valley Restaurants has in mind for the location.
A large oval bar with 50 beers on tap will be the main floor centerpiece of the eventual three-story bar and restaurant, Lucchesi said.
Lucchesi added the basement will be renovated into a barcade, a place to get a beer and a new high score in Pac-Man, while there are plans to renovate the top floor into a rooftop bar — the first in State College.
The renovations are scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2017 and will be among the company’s efforts to succeed where Chili’s could not. Happy Valley Restaurants’ business model and momentum from the past 30 years will be what allows them to stay open in town, Lucchesi said.
Nick Schreiber, a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, said he and his friends would be going to Champs when the bar’s renovations were complete.
“[The rooftop bar] would be a cool, new angle to see the town from,” Schreiber (sophomore-business) added.
Hotel State College Company CEO Joe Shulman is excited for the restaurant’s opening. Hotel State College operates restaurants such as The Corner Room and the Allen Street Grill while serving drinks at Indigo, Chumley’s, Zeno’s and Bill Pickle’s Tap Room.
Shulman said he wasn’t surprised by the closing of Chili’s last year, as he had noticed very few people going there.
“Champs will create a longer business day,” Shulman said. “It’ll be a positive thing for our end of town.”
The longer business day will be due to Champs’ variety of attractions, Shulman said. Chili’s was limited in its angles for drawing interest and Champs’ diversity of food, drinks and the upcoming renovations will help get people downtown.
“Diversity is a big part of a successful business in State College,” he said. One key to success for Shulman so far has been selling food in addition to alcohol at the Bill Pickle’s Taproom — 20 percent of the Taproom’s profits are from hungry customers, Shulman said.
Shulman said the biggest challenge to running a business in State College is getting the local community interested.
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