Liquor license transfer approved for Longhorn Steakhouse

January 15, 2014

LongHorn Steakhouse put its best hoof forward Tuesday and moved closer to joining the Old Mill.

The South Strabane Township supervisors unanimously approved an intermunicipal transfer of a restaurant liquor license to LongHorn that night. The license, from a long-closed site in Smith Township, was purchased from the estate of Dominic Stracci.

LongHorn, which specializes in steaks, chicken and seafood, has not yet signed a lease for the site, where a previous retail project, the Foundry, failed more than five years ago. But it is likely close.

Patrick Safran, LongHorn’s director of operations, attended the meeting and said “the projected opening is in November ... but that could change depending on how things go.”

Pending a lease agreement, the third steakhouse in this strip of Washington Road will be built in one of two outparcels being constructed to the right of Max & Erma’s, as viewed from Route 19.

Max & Erma’s and neighboring Olive Garden are the only businesses operating in the Old Mill. Hobby Lobby has signed a lease and will be coming.

A 5-0 vote on the transfer Tuesday followed a five-minute presentation by attorney Mark E. Kozar of Flaherty & O’Hara, a downtown Pittsburgh firm that deals in liquor license transactions. Kozar represents RARE Hospitality International Inc., which operates LongHorn.

RARE is a wholly owned subsidiary of Darden Restaurants. Orlando, Fla.-based Darden already owns two other restaurant brands in South Strabane, both near where LongHorn would go in: Olive Garden, which opened 13 months ago, and Red Lobster, across Route 19 in the Trinity Point shopping complex.

Kozar, of Mt. Lebanon, provided a brief but detailed profile of the steakhouse to the supervisors. LongHorn has lunch, dinner and children’s menus; its hours will be 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 to 11 Friday and Saturday; and will operate within 6,196 square feet of space – the approximate size of most of its restaurants.

The Old Mill site will have seating for 242, Kozar added, and provide 100 jobs.

Supervisors had several alcohol-related questions, including whether there will be a bar (yes, with 14 stools).

“Alcohol is served at all LongHorn restaurants, and it’s complementary of food,” Kozar said, adding that alcohol accounts for about 9 percent of all LongHorn sales.

Supervisor Bob Koman asked whether employees locally will undergo alcohol-service training, and Safran said the company’s “in-house training satisfies the requirements of the state.”

A recent township crime spree, in which windows of cars were broken and items removed, prompted Koman to inquire about LongHorn’s security policies. He said the incidents occurred across Route 19, in the parking lots of Applebee’s and Red Lobster, the latter a Darden property.

“The safety and security of employees and guests is priority one with Darden,” Safran said. “We have our own security department within the county and address the issues right away. We know about the issues with break-ins.”

Shortly afterward, the liquor license transfer passed easily.

Rick Shrum joined the Observer-Reporter as a reporter in 2012, after serving as a section editor, sports reporter and copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rick has won seven individual writing awards, including two Golden Quills.

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