Dixie’s Calhoun tries to rise again

Construction nightmare nearly sank Calhoun Beach Club restaurant

Dixie's Calhoun, known for its regional Southern cuisine, was open all last year, but according to co-owner Steve Goldberg, no one knew. A 14-month renovation at the Calhoun Beach Club, where Dixie's is housed, "almost drove us out of business," said Goldberg, so now he has begun the fight to win diners back.

The renovation, which ended in November, put a fence in front of Dixie's that blocked street visibility and gave diners a prime view of the construction crew's outhouses. Goldberg said the few who dined at Dixie's, 2730 W. Lake St., were subjected to jack-hammering and loud bulldozers.

Manager Wendi Nauheimer has worked at the Cedar-Isles-Dean restaurant since its opening five years ago. She said during construction, the restaurant got repeated calls asking when they were going to reopen. "People always thought we closed with the Calhoun Beach Club," Nauheimer said.

Leaving the site was not an option, Goldberg said, because he and his partners had put $750,000 into renovations. Goldberg said he is negotiating with the Beach Club for compensation, since Dixie's paid full rent during the construction. Goldberg estimated that he lost $300,000 in sales.

Nauheimer said customer counts were cut in half, going from an average 300 per night to 160. The dramatic lull in business, he said, was especially hard on the restaurant's loyal staff. Nauheimer said the restaurant had to cut three kitchen staffers to stay afloat, and the remaining kitchen staff had their weekly hours cut from 40 to 20.

Servers spent many days wiping down tables, instead of serving customers. Nathan Tyleutki started waiting tables at the restaurant just as he was finishing up college a year and a half ago; he said when the business went south, his income plummeted. "It was hard to make ends meet," he said, adding that he made $20 to 30 a night in tips compared to $70 to $120 that servers made before the construction.

Now, with construction finished, Tyleutki said the business has been a little better, although he still tries to lure his friends in to create sales.

Nauheimer said she even went out and bought a red neon sign reading "Open" to let people know that they're there.

Nauheimer agreed that since the Calhoun Beach Club's reopening, Dixie's business has steadily improved, but the restaurant is still trying to win back their regulars through an advertising campaign. "We're still here, we've survived, please come back," she said.