City lands new tenant for golf course eatery

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New, veteran restaurateurs are ready to call Meadowbrook Golf & Event Center home, and they bring with them a solid track record of culinary success.

The City of Kilgore shuttered its Firehouse Bar & Grill as a cost-cutting measure in August 2016, and the restaurant has sat empty for the past year as city leaders worked to lease the space.

Andy Teel is taking them up on the offer. He and a seasoned crew of dining-developers are angling for a Sept. 29 opening of The Pumphouse Restaurant & Bar at 1306 Houston St.

While Andy hails from Longview, his wife, Jessica Dukes Teel, is a Kilgore native.

The couple visited Meadowbrook several times in the past several years for different events. Andy first encountered the golf course restaurant as the Firehouse, run first through Kilgore Fire Department then the City of Kilgore. When he heard through the grapevine about the city’s latest efforts to find a tenant, Andy moved on the chance.

With Jessica’s Kilgore roots, “I thought it would be a good opportunity for us to come back and do something to benefit the community and benefit ourselves,” he said.

The Pumphouse builds on their other ventures throughout East Texas – from Jimmy John’s locations in Longview and Tyler to the Frogs Sports Bar & Grill in Nacogdoches, purchased in May 2014.

According to Kilgore City Manager Josh Selleck, city staffers had already pitched the opportunity to numerous local entrepreneurs – with no takers – when Andy reached out to City Hall. His initiative, not to mention the team’s success at other endeavors, helped seal the deal, and last month council members directed Selleck to finalize negotiations.

For one, a market-type lease gets the city fully out of its Firehouse restaurant, Selleck said, and out of direct competition with local eateries.

“It takes a lot of the operating expense of that large building off of the city,” he added, “and it helps make the golf course even more sustainable. I’m really excited about what they’re planning to do.”

Work’s underway, from soundproofing the ceiling this week to replacing the horseshoe bar with a straight setup to conserve space, making plans for new flatscreen TVs and a fresh paint job, unifying the color scheme between restaurant and ballroom. Right now, Andy estimates seating for up to 80 people in the restaurant-side of the venture. If and when necessary, there’s room to grow in the adjacent ballroom: “That significantly increases our seating capacity. And the patio has well.”

The menu is, at the moment, nonspecific. The new proprietors aim to serve everything from simple to savory.

“It’s going to be a wide range of items,” Andy said, with steaks, seafood, burgers and wings the first items to come to mind. “Kind of a one-stop-shop is what we want it to be.”

And, “We’re going to deliver all over Kilgore, our full menu.”

The Pumphouse will be open seven days a week, 11 a.m. to close (about midnight) on weekdays. It will open at 8 a.m. weekend mornings.

“We’re going to serve a brunch on Saturday and Sunday starting out,” featuring a ‘24-Hour Burger,’ breakfast tacos and pancakes plus chicken-and-waffles.

The new operators – along with brother Lane Teel and Greg Kachurik – aim to stick to the status quo on the ballroom, welcoming the Kilgore Rotary Club and other users to keep using the space while the Pumphouse kitchen caters activities within – “We’re going to work well with them and hopefully help each other out” – including weddings and similar special events.

“Hopefully, we get business enough where we have to use some of the ballroom space for restaurant,” he said. Meanwhile, “We’re going to have two separate menus, essentially,” for daily fare as well as banquet-style catering.

The wide range of the menu also appeals to Selleck, underscoring the public nature of the golf course and its restaurant.

“One of our biggest challenges with transitioning the golf course from a private country club to a place that everyone is welcome has been getting rid of the country club stigma and ensuring that people know that they’re welcome there,” he added. “I think with this restaurant concept and the new marketing that will come with it, it will be a reminder that everyone is welcome at the golf course. It’s not a members-only location. We host all sorts of different events out there.

“It’s another amenity that is there for the entire community – I hope with the new arrangement we can illustrate that for an entirely new group of people.”

Andy has a similar perspective. That’s what he enjoys about the restaurant business.

“I like working with people. I like the challenge of working and dealing with people,” Andy said, learning every day. With the human element, “There’s something new that’s going to happen.

“You just really have to be a people person in this industry.”

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