UPDATE: Grand Island Getting a Denny's


By Steve White

Grand Island hits a grand slam, as it lands another popular chain restaurant. And for the first time in years, a national sit down chain has decided to build on South Locust Street.

The locally owned Howard Johnson Riverside Inn plans a $1.4 million renovation including a new Denny's.

Many restaurants have built along the Highway 281 in recent years, but this comes on South Locust Street.

Consultant Zachary Zoul of Hospitality Advisors Group said, "The strong recognition Denny's has will be real catalyst for other development in this area as well as we think there's a great deal of synergy with all of the other development on South Locust Street, not the least of which is the Nebraska State Fair."

Denny's will replace the Garden Cafe. Plans are to be open by July.

They're asking for tax breaks since the area was considered a blight following the 1980 tornadoes. Rebuilding in that area has been gradual and this local leaders say this is another good sign.

Tricia Beem of the Convention and Visitors Bureau said, "It definitely will help spur other development and we have two empty lots at the intersection of 34 and Locust and hoping for some really exciting businesses to jump in."

It'll be operated by the same California company that opened Denny's in Ogallala and North Platte within the last year and it will be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The restaurant will have its own entrance and the traditional Denny's "tower" design.

Zoul is a former city administrator in Grand Island. He said he helped bring the franchisee and hotel together, after a conversation with Chamber of Commerce President Cindy Johnson.

In addition, the hotel will undergo a renovation project that will update the exterior of the building, improve the lobby and restrooms, plus redecorate and improve the parking lot.

The biggest expense is building the Denny's and a new lounge.

Zoul said, "The staffing required to operate the restaurant will result in the creation of 55 full and part time positions, a net increase in employment for the hotel restaurant of 50."

The hotel is on a highly visible location, at the corner of South Locust and Highway 34. Now that Locust is four lanes from the interstate and leads to the Nebraska State Fair, it is a major entrance to the community.

The Howard Johnson hotel is the second largest hotel in Grand Island, with 181 guest rooms, 10,000 square feet of meeting/banquet/event space, and the largest indoor pool in Grand Island.

The property is locally owned by Stratford Plaza LLC who purchased the property ten years ago.

Denny's restaurants, although widely recognized for their breakfast menu, does most of its business at lunch and dinner. A full menu is offered 24 hours.