BELOIT—Beloit residents and visitors soon will be able to enjoy fine dining fare at casual dining prices as two longtime business partners prepare to open the Liberty House Grill & Whiskey and Wine Cellar at the former Clara Bo and Gatsby restaurant space in Beloit on Liberty Avenue.
Benny Useni and Ilir Banushi have a half-century of restaurant experience combined under their belts, but the pair said they wouldn’t be where they are today without the dedicated staff across the duo’s eight restaurants.
“We’re excited to be here,” Banushi said. “The community’s been very welcoming. We’re excited to start a new venture. It’s always a challenge, but it’s a challenge we’re ready for. Our track record has proven that.”
The pair oversee operations at Whiskey Ranch locations in Janesville and Delavan, along with Citrus Cafe in Janesville; and Edgerton businesses Cafe On Main, Two Brothers Pub, Lounge 1848 and Red Baron.
The Beloit location is expected to employ a staff of around two dozen, Useni said.
Moving to Beloit was a risk the business partners wanted to take for some time, and Useni said it all came together even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The property at 1901 Liberty Ave. on Beloit’s West side seemed an ideal location. The former Clara Bo and Gatsby restaurant closed in August of 2019.
“Having the property built up the way it was really made it that much more attractive to us,” Useni said of the Clara Bo space. “We have a lot of respect for the City of Beloit and what’s happened here in recent years. Being in Beloit has been a goal of ours for several years. The city has a great base of restaurants that have been in place for many years and we’re here to help build off of that.”
The menu will feature Wisconsin-produced steaks, house-made pastas; a range of seafood; gourmet burgers made popular at the Whiskey Ranch locations in Janesville and Delavan, along with signature wraps and sandwiches. Classic favorites like fresh fried chicken, calf liver and onions with bacon, slow-cooked ribs and pork chops will also make their way onto the menu.
“The menu is going to be fit for all ages and all types of tastes,” Useni said. “We want to be able to cater to everyone. We don’t want to be exclusive. We don’t have expectations for people to be in a suit and tie. We want people who come here in Levi’s and a flannel to be just as at home as that person in a suit. We’re focused on being open for everyone so they can find something to love about what we do. Our comfort zone is casual dining at fine dining quality without that high cost associated with fine dining.”
Both thanked the City of Beloit for getting squared away with the necessary permits, also pointing to the success of many downtown restaurants, including those operated under Geronimo Hospitality.
“(Diane Hendricks) has brought a lot to the table, obviously,” Useni said. “I think we’re another asset and we are going to work well with other restaurants in the city and not work against them. The city has a bright future with the casino and the stadium coming. I think the foundation here is very solid.”
The space is set to open in June and both the upstairs and downstairs locations will be open from Monday through Saturday afternoons to late-evening. Exact hours and days of service will be announced soon.