Deal would remake Lake Room into upscale wine bar

'The Abbey' owner hopes sale completed by end of month

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By DREW CARTER

A Palos Hills woman wants to remake the Lake Room?#34;which ruffled feathers in its 2003 opening for being too much like a bar?#34;turning it into an upscale appetizer-and-wine bar.

Ellen Bettenhausen received preliminary approval from the Oak Park Liquor Control Review Board in July for a wine bar establishment she plans to call The Oak Park Abbey. Her liquor license needs approval from the village board, which is expected to rule on the matter next month.

Spiro Papageorge, owner of Papaspiros Greek Taverna, 733 Lake St., and the Lake Room, 728 Lake St., did not return multiple calls seeking comment. But Bettenhausen hopes to finalize the purchase of the business by the end of the month.

John Martin, chair of the liquor board, said the Lake Room had recently been cited for not complying with the village's liquor ordinance, and that renewal of its license would not have been cut-and-dried if the business were not being sold.

The Abbey's plan for a wine bar, Martin said, will be "certainly more in line with where the ordinance is."

The Abbey would be the first food/drink business for Bettenhausen, a former corporate executive coach. She began working on the project last year, hiring a broker to find the "perfect" suburban location.

"I didn't want to do this until I found the perfect location in the perfect town," she said, adding that Oak Park's perfection comes from being centrally located and filled with "sophisticated" and "trendy" residents. "I think [The Abbey] is something they will grab onto and they would appreciate."

Bettenhausen said that although she enjoys meeting friends for a glass of wine and socializing, she's not an expert yet on winemaking or wine appreciation. For help, she hired a consultant?#34;a certified sommelier?#34;to help develop her palate and purchase wines.

As for food, The Abbey will offer an appetizer menu of foods that pair well with wine?#34;smoked salmon, foie gras, hummus?#34;and a dessert menu, too, Bettenhausen said.

Martin said the Lake Room space has a small kitchen, and wouldn't expect an establishment operating out of the space to offer as many choices as other restaurants. But The Abbey's presentation persuaded him that diners could get a full meal there.

Bettenhausen said she expected to get more of a before- or after-dinner crowd.

She plans to make The Abbey a place where wine will be accessible to experts and novices alike, with a wide-reaching selection that newbies can learn about through storybooks and other educational material that can be taken with a glass of wine. Photographs and maps of wine regions will adorn the walls.

With some minor interior work after acquiring the Lake Room, Bettenhausen hopes to open the wine bar by late September.

CONTACT: dcarter@wjinc.com

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