Graveyard of restaurants claims its final victim in Kettering

The list of restaurants that ultimately failed to make a go of it in space next to Fraze Pavilion is lengthy — but at least it will never grow any longer.

The space on Lincoln Park Boulevard overlooking the city of Kettering’s outdoor music venue has operated as a restaurant for 28 years, with some notable gaps in recent years. The roster includes Harbour Lights, Lincoln Park Grill, Pavilion Grill, Norton's, The Tropics, Park City Club, Roost American and Roost Events.

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But the restaurant’s rich and colorful history, which included Dayton restaurant royalty, a fair dose of tumult, a lawsuit and plenty of family milestones, will come to an end next month when Roost Events closes its doors. The restaurant space at 580 Lincoln Park Blvd. will be renovated by the Kettering City Schools for office purposes.

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But if those walls could talk ...

The first restaurant to operate there was Harbour Lights, which opened in early 1990. Former Dayton Daily News (and Journal Herald) dining critic Ann Heller wrote a review of the restaurant shortly after it opened.

It was not glowing. Heller described the restaurant’s Cajun Pasta as seeming to “be a steam-table concoction of overcooked, rather tough pasta paired with andouille sausage, crawfish tails and chunks of duck, which added nothing to the dish.” Heller founds other faults as well, with the food and decor. Some diners disagreed, and wrote letters in support of the restaurant.

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Next up a few years later was Lincoln Park Grille, initially launched by the owners of an Oregon District Pub, which in 1999 was purchased by a member of the closest thing Dayton had to a restaurant royal family.

Bruce Comisar was the former owner of King Cole, a highly praised restaurant that operated in downtown Dayton from 1928 to 1999. The restaurant held a Mobil Travel Guide four-star rating until 1991. King Cole was formal fancy, expensive and wonderful. Comisar and his business partner, the former chef at King Cole, said they wanted to take Lincoln Park Grille to the next level. And indeed, the restaurant operated for nearly a decade before Comisar shut it down on Jan. 1, 2009.

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Norton’s and The Tropics followed, with different menu concepts and more in-house live music, but the owners struggled to overcome the summer-boom, winter-bust nature of the business. For the entire 2015 Fraze concern season, the restaurant was vacant.

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Dana Downs, co-founder of Roost Modern Italian (later and still today, Roost Italian) in the Oregon District, opened Park City Club in the space in December 2015, later changing the name to Roost American to better align it with her existing restaurant. Another name change to Roost Events reflected her decision to be open only during holidays, Fraze concert nights and special events.

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The joint announcement between Downs and her landlord late last week said Roost Events will open for six more Fraze concerts through Sept. 11, then will have a final blowout farewell party on Sept. 14 before shutting down for good.

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In that joint release, Kurt Goertemiller, vice president of operations-Midwest for HTA Inc., which owns the building, said, “If Dana (Downs) can’t make it work, it just isn’t a viable restaurant facility.”

But what a ride it was, for 28 years.

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