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Gary buffet to open on Sundays, hopes for rebirth

Updated: April 3, 2013 6:09AM



GARY — After a two-month hiatus, the Steel City Buffet will open again on Sunday. But here’s the catch, it will open only on Sundays.

Scott Upshaw, director of the GECH Empowerment Zone, which operates the restaurant, said he hopes his agency can “transition” out of operating the restaurant and find an entrepreneur to take it over.

The Empowerment Zone began operating the buffet in 2009 after original lessee, Kenneth Lewis Sr., stopped paying rent. The Empowerment Zone built the restaurant at 411 E. 5th Ave., across from the U.S. Steel Yard, in partnership with Lewis for his Dusties Southern Style Buffet and Kenny’s Ribs. Court filings showed Lewis owed as much as $280,000 in September 2010.

The Empowerment Zone was financed with federal dollars until 2010 so it could make loans to local businesses in Gary, East Chicago and Hammond.

Now, the agency still exists as a nonprofit, operating from cash it receives as loans are paid back.

The agency kept the buffet open and changed the name to Steel City Buffet after Dusties left, but business continued to be slow.

On Friday, Upshaw said Delwin Murphy will begin marketing the restaurant. “We’re trying to find someone to get people into the restaurant,” Upshaw said. He said Murphy’s compensation would be based on performance, calling it a “collaborative effort.”

Upshaw said although the buffet has been closed since January, it has been open for special events, banquets and catering.

Upshaw said the buffet’s hours will be 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. “We’re trying to reinvent the restaurant so we can slowly open the doors up,” Upshaw said.

Meanwhile, the agency is leasing the smaller adjacent restaurant that once housed Kenny’s Ribs to Michael Parker, former manager of the buffet. Named Parker’s Pig Out, it features barbecue ribs, turkey and chicken.



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