City seeks restaurant operators for former Locktender’s site

A Piqua restaurant open for just six months has permanently closed, but the city is already marketing the site for another tenant to take its place.

Locktender’s, launched by Chef Todd Uhlir and Jeff Finkelstein of local chain Basil’s on Market, couldn’t survive the Covid-19 pandemic. The stay-at-home order that shut down non-essential businesses took effect in mid-March, and shortly after Locktender’s announced it would close permanently. The shut down, coupled with lower sales volume than anticipated, were the major factors in the decision to close.

“It was very unfortunate,” said Piqua Community and Economic Development Director Chris Schmiesing. “We had a great working relationship with the operators of the restaurant, and they were hoping business would pick up during patio season in the summer months. They just didn’t have the opportunity to gain a solid foothold. Because of timing of the order to close restaurants, and the fact that they have three and soon to be four other restaurants, they decided they needed to focus their energies elsewhere.”

Though Locktender’s is closed, the city is actively marketing the location to other businesses. The city, which owns the building, sent out a Request for Proposal to garner interest from other business owners who could come up with a plan for the site. The RFP was sent out to an extensive list of restaurant associations, operators and groups, Schmiesing said.

Finding someone who wants to open a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic may seem difficult, but the city has received at least four applications thus far.

“We’ve had a pretty decent response so far,” Schmiesing said.

Based on the way the facility is laid out, along with its prime location in a premier building (Fort Piqua Plaza) in the city’s core, the most likely use will be a full-service, sit-down restaurant as it was before. Along with the restaurant space, the site comes with a small area that could be used as a specialty retail shop.

“I wouldn’t imagine it shifting away from being a restaurant,” Schmiesing said. “In terms of concept, Fort Piqua Plaza is a very attractive building with high quality finishes, and it’s in a prime location. So whatever the end-user concept might be, it should be complimentary to the quality of that space.”

While there is no set timeline on when the city wants the space to be filled, Schmiesing said they are hoping to redevelop it as soon possible. Applications were still being accepted as of this writing.

Once all proposals are received, a committee that includes three members of the original Fort Piqua Plaza oversight group, along with elected officials that represent each ward of the city, will convene to decide which proposals to recommend. Schmiesing said he expects the committee to convene within the next month.

The group’s main tasks are to review each proposal, come up with a short list of candidates, negotiate terms and submit a recommendation to city council for approval.

“We’re asking them to be the sounding board,” Schmiesing said of the committee. “We want it to be a consensus decision and for them to serve as the voice of the community.”

Though the city is hoping for the process to go quickly, Schmiesing said they also want to ensure whoever ends up there is the best fit for the community.

“Not only do we want to make sure it’s a good fit for the community, we want to make sure we’re setting them up to be successful so we can have a great operator that’s got some longevity and who will do well,” he said.