Archive for Wednesday, April 3, 2002

Hilltop bar-restaurant to reopen soon

April 3, 2002

A Bonner Springs woman is breathing life back into a bar-restaurant that burned 18 months ago.

And in about two weeks, Helen Ihrer should finish remodeling Helen's Hilltop, which is northwest of Tongan-oxie, at Parallel Road and Kansas Highway 16.

"I want everyone to be welcome here," she said. "I'm open to any suggestions that people have."

Ihrer and her husband, Frank, along with other family members, have worked since February to restore the building, which was damaged by an arson fire in September 2000.

It's been a daunting task.

They rebuilt the south side of the building, where the fire struck, and cleaned the remainder of the structure, which had sustained smoke and water damage.

"The ceiling fans were melted," Ihrer said.

The fire damaged the first floor, including a back bar and band performance area, as well as a second-floor one-bedroom loft apartment. Those have been restored. A two-bedroom apartment on the north side of the second floor was not damaged in the blaze.

Because her husband was able to handle much of the restoration work, the project, which included upgrading the kitchen and bathrooms as well as repairing fire damage, has been affordable.

Ihrer, who is hopeful she can open her new bar-restaurant on April 15, would like to create a neighborhood bar in a rural setting.

She said she'll offer a limited lunch and dinner menu initially, starting with burgers and appetizers. Then she'll branch out.

"I'd like to eventually get to more country-style dinners meatloaf, fried chicken," she said.

She plans pool nights, karaoke nights and band nights. And she's toying with the idea of jam sessions.

"That would be early in the week, where people can come in and play music together," she said. "I'd like to do something like that if I can."

Helen's Hilltop will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday. On Sunday, Ihrer said, she'll likely open at 11 a.m. or noon and close by midnight, perhaps earlier.

For the past six years, she's owned The Key Hole, a small bar in Mission. During the nine years before she took over ownership of that business, she had worked at The Key Hole.

Taking on the much-larger Hilltop operation will be a challenge, she said.

"I think it will be fun," she said. "I'm excited, but it's scary."

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