Anand Saha said last week he wants to take his time to get things right in renovating the former Cord Camera building as his new restaurant location -- but said time is rapidly running out on another aspect of the venture.
With his wife, Doris, Saha is co-owner of the 17-year-old Mozart's Piano Cafe and Bakery as well as the more recent Vienna Ice Cafe. He said he is negotiating terms that he hopes will enable him to keep the current south Clintonville location of the older establishment in business even after he gets the new one up and running at 4784 N. High St.
Saha faces a deadline of Tuesday, Feb. 5, in order to submit 231 valid signatures to the Franklin County Board of Elections in order to have a ballot measure that would enable alcohol sales at the one-time Henri Boyd Restaurant. He said he hopes to gather at least 300 signatures to ensure enough valid ones, but added cold weather has hampered efforts.
As of last week, Saha said he had only 20 percent of his goal.
"It is not a break deal," the restaurant owner said. "For me, it is more of a motivational factor. If people know I have been a good neighbor and a good business person ... I would like to get the signatures. I'm not intending to open a bar. The concept will be the same as my High Street location.
"Would it hurt my business if I didn't get it? Yes, but it is not instrumental to my success," he said. "We do need that license. For me, getting that license is being invited to that neighborhood."
Liquor sales account for only about 3 percent of his current operations, Saha added.
Saha announced in October that he had entered into agreement to purchase the 11,000-square-foot building, constructed in 1930, for $635,000.
He said last week he made his offer just as a national chain restaurant was about to swoop in, tear down the historic structure and erect a drive-through establishment in its place.
"We were lucky," Saha said. "We got it.
"This was meant to be. I've driven past this building for the last 15 years and I've always told my wife, 'What a nice restaurant that would be,' but it's always been out of our reach. But it was meant to be. It was meant for Mozart's to bring back the memories of that building, bring back the architecture from many years ago ... and make it a hopping place."
Timothy A. Bass of Bass Studio Architects on King Avenue has produced some conceptual drawings for Saha on what the interior of the new restaurant might look like.
It will definitely include restoration of the old terrazzo flooring that over the years has been covered by tile and carpeting, he said.
"It is absolutely gorgeous," Saha said.
But restoring the floor and other architectural details to near-original condition means a delay of a month or two for the proposed opening, he said. He had been hoping for a March opening, but now it's planned for April or possibly beyond.
"It would be a fantastic Mother's Day present," Saha said. "That would be awesome if I was up and running. It would be good to coordinate the grand opening with that."
Any delay, he added, would be worth it in terms of properly restoring the site.
"It has a real emotional value, this building does, to many of the people in this neighborhood," Saha said. "I don't want to make this just another cafe. I want to make it a source of pride for the neighborhood.
"I absolutely want to do it right."