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INSIDE DISH: Vegas-themed eatery eyes breaking even

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Inside Dish

Welcome back to IBJ’s video feature “Inside Dish: The Business of Running Restaurants.”

Our subject this week is Hal's Fabulous Vegas Bar & Grille, a casino-themed restaurant with an old-school vibe concocted by Hal and Carol Yeagy, the owners of the downtown blues institution Slippery Noodle Inn. Despite their experience building the Noodle into a national landmark, the Yeagys found themselves back at the bottom of the learning curve with their new eatery, which has lost more than $100,000 annually since opening in 2006.

"You know how you always have this great idea for retirement, that you're going to have this other job?" Hal Yeagy, 52, asked with an edge of irony in his voice. "That's kind of what this originally was meant to be to us."

It became a bigger burden than originally anticipated, but a labor of love nonetheless. The Yeagys cut no corners in the restaurant, inspired by their many vacations to Las Vegas. They spent about $1.2 million renovating and decorating an unused restaurant property in Greenwood, which cost an additional $800,000 to purchase. Design details included granite bar and table tops, custom-designed wool carpeting, about $120,000 in high-end light fixtures, and bar stools running $485 each from a manufacturer that supplies casinos.

Loans covered about $1.6 million of that initial $2 million investment. The Yeagys funded the rest, in part through their savings, credit cards and selling investments.

Although the Yeagys live nearby, they discovered they didn't have a firm grasp on the dining habits of southsiders. Some guests balked at the prices, expecting something more in line with a Texas Roadhouse, Hal said. Some turned up their noses at the policy of allowing smoking at and near the bar. Even the original dress code—no sleeveless shirts—had to be relaxed.

The Yeagys made adjustments over time. They instituted a no-smoking policy in late 2009 and began welcoming young adults to what had been a 21-and-over venue. They hired a new executive chef in October, leading to tweaks in the menu (although prices essentially remained the same).

Sales dipped about $50,000 from 2008 to 2009 (see "Notes from the Back of the Napkin," below), in part due to the ailing economy and increased competition from new Greenwood restaurants, Hal said. But the bottom line improved slightly, and has shown signs this year of approaching the break-even point.

"I look at things for the long haul," Hal said. "I think it takes a long time to build a lasting business."

In the video below, Yeagy discusses the origins of the restaurant, the surprises encountered after its opening, and its recent financial performance.


 

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Hal's Fabulous Vegas Bar & Grille
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1133 North State Road 135, Greenwood
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(317) 888-3427
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www.halsvegas.com
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Concept: Moderately priced steakhouse meant to evoke an old-style Las Vegas casino
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Founded: May 2006
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Owners: Hal and Carol Yeagy
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Employees: 15
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Start-up costs: $2 million ($800,000 for purchasing the land with an existing building; $1.2 million for renovating and decorating)
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Sales/profit: $630,000 with a $116,000 loss (2008); $581,000 with a $108,000 loss (2009).
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Seating: 148 (with an additional 40 seats in private rooms)
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Goals: To attract another 30 diners per week, which would allow the restaurant to operate at the break-even point. Future promotions will include an offering via the Groupon discount service.
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Good to know: Hal and Carol Yeagy also own Slippery Noodle Inn, downtown's landmark blues club.
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  • My Favorite
    Hal,

    I was suprised to see this article. I absolutely love the restaraunt and have recommended many people give it a shot and will continue to do so. As far as I am concerned there is no competition near the southside for the quality of food, service, and atmosphere. I would much rather spend my money at a place where I know someone has put in some sweat equity than a chain restaraunt where everything is out of the box. Best wishes to you and keep up the good work! I look forward to my next visit.
  • HOURS
    We have regular hours and have since we opened.
    Tues & Wed 4pm - 11pm
    Thur-Sat 4pm-midnight
    closed Sunday & Monday except for private functions
  • Sounds like a failure
    Spent too much on decor and a high-priced menu and put the restaurant in a location with too much lower-priced competition. If you're going to charge $20 for a steak, you need to be located farther north.
  • Not impressed
    I am glad others were impressed, but I was not. The menu is small, service was slow. I thought it was expensive. How recently did they change their menu?
  • Best Steaks!
    The wife and I just got back from our vacation and we ate at some pretty high end places from some of the best chefs in the country. Hal's Vegas has the best steaks hands down that we have eaten anywhere...Thanks for spoiling the Southsiders!
  • When are you open????
    My boyfriend and I have passed this restaurant several times and you are never open. It's almost a joke for us now. Regular hours of operation might help your cause...........
    • WE LOVE VEGAS
      I have been to Hal's quite a bit. It is wonderful, from the food to the atmosphere. The new chef is great. More people need to give it a chance rather than just frequenting the local chain restaurants. You get better food and service here. Keep it up Hal we love it!
    • My Favorite
      I frequent all of the restaurants on the southside of indianapolis and this is by far my favorite. Atmosphere is far nicer than anything else the southside has to offer and the menu is excellent. You get what you pay for.
    • Beautiful!
      Such a beautiful place! They have a new chef, new menu, and the best martinis. Only $5 on Thursdays! I have to agree, this is definitely the best restaurant on the southside. Support your local business owners!
    • Really?
      My wife and live in Greenwood and ate there one time. The prices were shockingly high for no more quality, in our opinion. We frequent Stone Creek Dining or Bonefish and spend half the money for great food. Sorry Hal, but folks, don't waste your time or money.
    • great time!
      i live on the south-side, yet i have only been to this restaurant one time for a girls night out party. The food was great along with the atmosphere! i would go back!
    • Who knew??
      We stopped going there because of the smoking and some of our friends weren't 21. I had no idea that these policies changed. Guess we'll start coming back since we always enjoyed eating there.
    • cmon southsiders
      support Hal & Carol the restaurant has great food, sit in a comfy high back leather booth that deadens restaurant noise and allows relaxed conversation without shouting. I've had everything on the menu, Friday's lobster bisque is a must.
    • Mrs.
      I'm a southsider and I love this place. I also like going to non-chains. Anyone tried the Thai Spice at it's new location?
    • Wonderful place!!!!
      This is Indy's southside BEST restaurant, hands down. Its not a chain, and i think thats what scares the southsiders. Try it people, IT IS WONDERFUL!!!!

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