Happy Chef prepares to close Cedar Valley restaurants - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Happy Chef prepares to close Cedar Valley restaurants

WATERLOO (KWWL) -- This weekend, a pair of local restaurants are serving their last meal. The owner of Happy Chef in Waterloo and Cedar Falls is closing both restaurants.

This is the end result of several challenging years for owner Chuck Melby. In 2008, the Waterloo restaurant was flooded with 28 inches of water. After a few months of remodeling, Melby re-opened. But unlike many other flooded businesses, he was never able to get back in the black.

So with another soon-to-be vacant building on the block, the question becomes, what's next for this section of downtown Waterloo?

"It's certainly unfortunate to lose another small business. There are a lot of great things going on downtown, and a lot of opportunities for people downtown. And it's just unfortunate when a small business owner has to reach a point where they decided to close," said David Deeds, Interim Director of Main Street Waterloo

The soon-to-be empty building will join another one right across the street. The Grand Hotel closed a few months ago. But as of Tuesday, September 14, the City of Waterloo officially became the owner of the lot and is beginning plans to tear the hotel down.

"That's the other thing about this particular portion of downtown -- is it's very much in transition. There's not a lot of density over here at this point in time, however, having said that, there's going to be some new opportunities in the future for new types of businesses in this area," said Deeds.

Taking a look at Waterloo's long-term development plans shows the area is part of the "New Economy District", and will neighbor the "Recreation Zone". So while he's sorry to hear about a small business going under, Deeds believes the current loss of Happy Chef might lead to another business owner's gain down the road.

"There's lots of opportunities downtown. This being one of them. There's a lot of great spaces, a lot of great places, and a lot of people that are really passionate about making downtown all it can be," he added.

Noel Anderson, the Director of Waterloo Planning and Zoning, said there are no plans to purchase Happy Chef for redevelopment. He echoes Deeds' sentiment about the loss of the restaurant, but Anderson is hopeful another business owner will move into the space.

Demolition on the Grand Hotel is set to start Spring 2011 following asbestos and other safety inspections. At this point, the city does not have any plans for the lot after the hotel is torn down.

Online Reporter Colleen O'Shaughnessy

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