Franklinton building chosen for Lessner group's latest restaurant

The Columbus Dispatch

After several years of searching for the perfect location, the Columbus Food League has committed to a two-story storefront in Franklinton to be home to its newest bar and restaurant, the Franklinton Tap Room.

The Columbus Food League, the group behind the Surly Girl Saloon, Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace and several other establishments, worked with the Franklinton Development Association to buy the building at 937 W. Broad St.

Renovation of the building will begin in the fall, said Jim Sweeney, executive director of the Franklinton Development Association. A spring opening is planned, said Elizabeth Lessner, the Columbus Food League's founder.

The Franklinton Development Association, which works to redevelop the Franklinton neighborhood, is buying the 119-year-old building and then renting the bottom floor to Lessner and her partners for the restaurant. The top floor will be turned into three apartments.

The building, which has been used for various commercial purposes, cost $123,000, and Sweeney said the Community Capital Development Corporation is contributing to the purchase and future construction.

Lessner's brother, Tim Lessner, and Steve Heighton will co-own and manage the restaurant. Tim Lessner and Heighton have worked together at a league restaurant before, with Lessner the co-owner and Heighton the bar manager at Tip Top Kitchen & Cocktails.

Details about the new bar, the theme and its food will come in the next few weeks, Elizabeth Lessner said.

Lessner said it's important that the restaurant be a good fit for the area, which is currently being redeveloped."It's a diverse neighborhood, so we want it to be accessible," she said.

Sweeney said the old building will require a lot of work.

"It's really a throwback to buildings Columbus grew up on," Sweeney said. "It's a classic American midcentury building."

Lessner said she was glad to have the opportunity to spare a beautiful, historic building from possibly being turned into a parking lot. She said she worked with Sweeney to find the right location, and Sweeney valued what Lessner could provide to the neighborhood.

"When (the Columbus Food League) opens up a new restaurant, that area improves," Sweeney said.

The Columbus Food League's most recent entry into the local dining scene was the Grass Skirt Tiki Room at 105 N. Grant Ave., which opened last fall. It features Polynesian-themed drinks and decor.

-Amy Friedenberger, Columbus Dispatch