The old Rosebud space in downtown Naperville, on the southeast corner of Chicago Avenue and Main Street, has been padlocked and boarded up since a fire closed the restaurant space nearly four years ago. Now, Phil Cullen (owner of the local Irish-themed Ballydoyle gastropub chain) and his team has begun interior demolition work on the old Rosebud location, with plans to open Empire in time for St. Patrick's Day 2015.
After lengthy discussions, in May 2013, Naperville's City Council amended city code to expand the number of late-night liquor licenses available to restaurants in Downtown Naperville. These additional permits will enable Empire to remain open after its kitchen stops serving food, until 1:00 am on weeknights and 2:00 am on weekends, and Cullen views the change as a boost for viable businesses.
Some downtown business advocates and police officials were leery of the new permits and adding another late-night spot, since in recent years the occurrence of bar brawls, thefts, and other incidents in the bar district downtown have increased. Law enforcement has been more prevalent in the bar district on weekend nights in response to the increase in occurrences. However, City Council was assured that Empire would target patrons ages 30 to 55 and their families, which presumably reduces the risk of an uptick in crime.
Included in the building plans for Empire is a retractable roof, with outdoor seating overlooking the West Branch of the DuPage River. Cullen has said Empire will serve as a family-friendly restaurant as well as an attraction for entertainment and cocktails later in the evening. The restaurant will also operate as a live music venue.
Cullen is aiming to complete construction and open Empire for business in the late fall, but assures patrons that the establishment will be open in time for St. Patrick's Day 2015. Cullen currently runs Ballydoyle locations in Aurora and Downers Grove.