Editor’s note: The proposal for a dual-branded HC Tavern and 1933 Lounge restaurant to take over the existing Champps space at Indianapolis International Airport was approved Friday morning. Following is a story that was published before the vote:
The last Champps in central Indiana—inside Concourse B at Indianapolis International Airport—is set to close at the end of February, but a well-known local restaurant company is poised to fill the void.
Huse Culinary Inc. (best known for St. Elmo Steak House) and its partners are expected to open a dual-branded HC Tavern and 1933 Lounge restaurant by the end of the year in the 5,238-square-foot space, which occupies a prominent spot across from the entrance to the concourse after the security checkpoint.
According to filings with the Indianapolis Airport Authority, whose board is set to consider a formal lease for the space during its meeting Friday morning, the space would be filled by a joint venture made up of airport dining operator SSP America Inc., Huse Culinary, Erin Clarke & Co. and Air Ventures.
The consideration of the proposal comes about one year after the airport solicited proposals for the space through a request-for-information process. Airport authority staff selected the Huse brands out of four proposals received for the space following a vetting process.
Champps Americana, which is set to close at the end of February, was one of the original tenants for the new terminal when it opened in 2008. It’s also the last remaining location for Champps in Indianapolis, which saw the closure of the Keystone at the Crossing location in 2017 and the Circle Centre location in 2021. The Keystone at the Crossing location operated for 22 years and the Circle Centre site was open for 20 years.
The airport location was initially was set to close in 2021 but remained open on a month-to-month contract between operator Areas USA and the airport authority following delays to the RFI process created by the pandemic.
The airport held off on procuring bids from potential restaurant partners until last year to allow the airport more time to recover and garner more interest from restaurants that were not in a position to take on the space with limited passengers using the facility.
The 40-year-old, St. Paul, Minnesota-based Champps, which had more than 60 restaurants at its peak, will have only four with the closure of the airport location—one each in Arizona, Minnesota, Mississippi and Wisconsin.
The proposed HC Tavern and 1933 concept would be the second partnership between SSP and Huse, as the pair also operate the Harry & Izzy’s restaurant in Concourse A. SSP would have a 51% stake in the new restaurant, with Huse at 37%, Erin Clarke & Co. and Air Ventures at 6% each.
The lease for the space would be 12 years, commencing 150 days after a work permit for the space is issued and running through December 2036. According to filings, at least $4.5 million is expected to be invested in the new restaurant.
The space would be wrapped in a new facade showcasing both brands, giving patrons a choice of dining at either 1933 Lounge or HC Tavern. It is also expected to have an express “to-go” quick-serve station.
Huse has a dual-branded HC Tavern and 1933 Lounge location at Fishers District in Hamilton County, with the lounge occupying the upper floor of that two-story building. There is also a 1933 Lounge above the Huse Culinary-owned St. Elmo Steak House in downtown Indianapolis.
HC Tavern focuses on a family-friendly atmosphere with a scratch kitchen offering mostly American cuisine, while 1933 Lounge is a more intimate cocktail lounge environment focused on high-end drinks.
SSP plans to hire existing Champps staff members to join the new operation. While construction on HC Tavern and 1933 Lounge is ongoing, SSP will operate what the airport authority describes as a “Tap and Pour” restaurant.
The dual-brand concept is expected to open by the end of 2024. The authority would spend about $35,000 from its budget to construct a barricade wall and complete an art installation to accompany construction.
Rent for the space would be based on gross sales generated by the restaurant, rather than a flat rate, with 15% of sales below $5 million and 16% of sales above that figure going to the airport authority. A common use fee of 3% of gross sales would also be applied to the operation.
That means $5 million in sales—the projected amount for the restaurant in 2025—would generate $750,000 for the airport authority. In 2036, gross sales are projected to be nearly $7.7 million, which would generate $1.18 million for the authority. The Indianapolis Airport Authority expects to generate $11.4 million in rent revenue from the restaurant through the life of the agreement.
SSP operates several other restaurants and concession areas at Indianapolis International Airport, including Bento Sushi, Bub’s Burger, Farmers’ Market featuring Indiana Grown, and Sun King Brewery. It’s had a presence at the airport since the terminal opened. Aside from Indianapolis, SSP operates in more than 180 airports around the world, managing 2,700 locations.
Huse Culinary and Indianapolis Airport Authority representatives declined to comment on the proposed restaurants until after the authority’s board votes on the measure.