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Old 07-11-2006, 08:46 PM   #1
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Lightbulb Bettis plans Pittsburgh restaurant

Nice. City of Burgh is getting #36's eatery. Too bad, I won't be here to enjoy it when it opens.


PITTSBURGH (AP) -- A Florida-based company is teaming with former Steelers star Jerome Bettis to open a Pittsburgh restaurant named after the retired running back, Bettis and a company official said Tuesday.

Celebrity Ventures Inc. of Fort Lauderdale is hoping to open the eatery -- to be called Jerome Bettis' Grille 36 -- within the next year, said Bob McCarthy, the company's vice president.

The firm is considering two locations for the restaurant, which would occupy about 8,500 square feet either in a new complex near Heinz Field or at a location downtown, he said.

Bettis, who retired from the Steelers after the team won the Super Bowl in February, is a partner in the venture that will showcase his personal and professional life.

"I wanted to be a part of the community and want to have something that is a piece of me in that sense," he said. "I can leave memorabilia in there and be part of the experience that is the Steeler experience."

But serving delicious, moderately-priced food -- from burgers to steaks -- will be the restaurant's core mission, Bettis said.

"We want the food to be incredible so you come back," he said.

Menu items have not been chosen yet, but the fare may include favorites of Bettis and the local community, according to McCarthy. Bettis said he hadn't yet picked a favorite dish to include on the menu and declined to specify what memorabilia might be on display.

"I definitely want to have some things from the Super Bowl but also things from throughout my whole career," he said. "It's not just football -- it's all-encompassing."

He said items that reflect his interest in bowling and the role of his family would likely be included.

McCarthy said the concept is 80 percent based on other sports-themed restaurants he and his partners have launched, including Conine's Clubhouse Grille in Hollywood, Fla., named for former Florida Marlins player Jeff Conine. The remaining 20 percent will be tailored to Bettis -- nicknamed "The Bus" -- the Pittsburgh community and the restaurant's location, he said.

The cost of the new restaurant will depend on its size, but an 8,500-square-foot space would require an investment of approximately $3.4 million, McCarthy said.

Bettis expressed interest in opening a restaurant during conversations with his friend Eddie George, a Heisman Trophy winner and former Tennessee Titan who has worked with McCarthy on two restaurants.

"For the last couple of years, there's been an interest on Jerome's part to do something," McCarthy said. Celebrity Ventures will consider opening a second Bettis restaurant if demand is strong enough, he said.

McCarthy, who previously worked for Walt Disney Co., said he started developing restaurants in the 1980s that were linked to sports heroes, including the late Walter Payton, a former Chicago Bears running back, and the Miami Dolphins' legendary quarterback Dan Marino.

During his career in the area, he said in a telephone interview from Florida, one constant has been that Steelers fans have made up the largest contingent of out-of-town sports fans.

"The most loyal fans were Pittsburgh Steelers fans," McCarthy said.
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