BELOIT - Clara Bo & Gatsby Wine Bar Owner Scott Murray said he fulfilled a lifelong dream when he opened his business about five years ago.
When the business closed on Sept. 8, he said it was bittersweet. Murray said he will always carry the memories of friendly customers and the devotion of his loyal staff.
Murray said he wanted to thank his executive chef Kevin Kerrivan, sous chef Austin Willowby, waitress Chantel Kerrivan and lead server/front of house manager Lauren McDonough. McDonough had worked at the Liberty Inn, which was the restaurant that occupied the building before Clara Bo & Gatsby opened.
"Those four stuck with me and cared as much about this place as myself. I couldn't have done it without them or those amazing customers," Murray said.
Murray said he closed the restaurant at 1901 Liberty Ave. to find more of a work/life balance. He plans to find another job with more manageable hours in hospitality or manufacturing.
Murray said he hopes to sell it to someone who will love it as much as him and perhaps take it to the next level. He is open to someone keeping the 1920s feel or someone interested in a new theme.
"I do not know what Act 2 has in store for Clara Bo. I hope someone can continue to build upon this dream and make it their vision for another truly amazing place to spend an evening," he said.
Murray acquired the former Liberty Inn on Oct. 28, 2013 and re-opened it in the spring of 2014 after extensive renovations. The building had a long history in Beloit. Close to 90 years old, the building used to be O'Donnell Electric Hatchery, a chicken hatchery. It later was a race track for remote control slot cars and Larry's Supper Club before it became the Liberty Inn. Beloit Mattress as well as a car dealership had also been located at the site, according to an earlier article.
Murray said he always dreamed of running a restaurant as a second career. He had served in the U.S. Navy and worked at ABC Supply Co. He made that dream come true when he created Clara Bo's, a steak and seafood restaurant and wine bar in an art deco theme. Clara Bow was the name of a 1920s actress.
"The dream really came to life," Murray said. "It had a very cozy ambiance with great food and service."
Murray said the boutique restaurant regularly attracted people from Madison, Chicago, Belvidere, Janesville, Monroe and Lake Geneva. Beloit, which he said is becoming a foodie scene, would attract many people eager to sample its fare.
"Beloit has been blessed to have so many varieties of restaurants in the food scene. I was lucky to be part of this community for so long," Murray said.
Murray said he also had good corporate customers such as Kerry Ingredients which would do special events with Clara Bo's.
Murray said it was an emotional farewell on the last day of service. The place had a New Year's Eve party atmosphere with 200 bloody Mary's gone by noon and lots of hugs as people said their goodbyes. Murray recalled a 90-year-old lady who stayed until the doors closed.
Since Murray has been cleaning up, he's had time to look back on his time at Clara Bo's. Mostly, he's thought about his employees, who he hopes to thank with a special cookout. He said they were instrumental in the business. No matter what was going on they worked hard with a smile on their faces and gave him a deeper understanding of the service industry.
For now, he will keep the Clara Bo Facebook page running, hoping to pass it on to a new owner.
"I want to see it succeed and will do whatever I can to help the next person take it to the next level," he said.