The gambling cafe scene in the south suburbs added another player recently with the opening of new gambling parlors under the ownership of Blackhawk Restaurant Group, which operates its cafes as Penny's or Betty's Bistro.
The company has opened more than two dozen cafes in communities including Hickory Hills, Countryside, Calumet Park, Lemont, Lockport, Crestwood, Alsip, Joliet and Crest Hill. A new one is expected to open this month on the border of Oak Lawn and Chicago Ridge and new locations are being built in Bridgeview, Calumet City and Matteson.
"Ours operate like delis or bistros," said co-owner Mike Thiessen. "We offer sandwiches and a light menu with free coffee for players.
"We are not a bar," said Thiessen. "We are well lit. We have plenty of cameras for security. We have a three-drink limit. We figure our clientele to be about 60-40 women."
The cafes range from about 1,500 square feet to 2,100 square feet. Each has five of the gambling machines allowed by state law and there are attendants to make sure the players have what they need.
"We specialize in customer service," said Jerry Luterman, an attendant at the Countryside Betty's Bistro since it opened in February. "There are about 20 regulars who come in on my shift. Some like friendly banter while others want to be left alone with their cup of coffee.
"The guests love that there are no TVs," he said.
As for their locations, Thiessen said "we like busy corners. We usually like to be near malls with grocery store anchors. The Hickory Hills location is in the same mall as a Fairplay Foods."
"We figure to have 50 to 60 open eventually," he said with each cafe employing from 10-16 employees.
Hours can vary from location to location but generally are open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. during the week and as late as 11 p.m. or midnight on weekends.
"We are flexible on our hours," Thiessen said. "We can close early if business is light or stay open as long as our liquor license allows if we are busy."
The company got its start in Oregon and operates cafes in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, California and Illinois.
New cosmetics stores open at Orland Square Mall
Two new upscale stores that cater to women opened recently at Orland Square Mall in Orland Park.
Lush Cosmetics opened May 2 in the mall's upper level near Macy's. The Britain-based store specializes in handmade cosmetics that are friendly for the environment.
Aveda, which also specializes in cosmetics and beauty supplies that are friendly to the environment, opened April 24 inside the mall. The chain opened in 1978 and has about 7,000 salons and spas worldwide.
Music studio expands in Orland Park
The Music Connection will hold an open house and ribbon cutting for its second Orland Park location at 10751 W. 165th St. from 1-6 p.m. May 10. The new location is adjacent to its original Orland location.
"We are eager to meet the families in Orland Park who are looking for quality music lessons for their children," director Janet Kuester said on the company's website. "We have lessons available at convenient times, comfortable chairs in the studios where parents can observe their children's lessons, and large waiting areas."
Harbor Freight Tools opens in Orland
Harbor Freight Tools will hold a grand opening from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 14 at 7520 W. 159th St. in Orland Park in the former Advance Auto Parts store that moved into new digs earlier this year.
The company started in 1977, and the family-owned chain carries more than 7,000 tools and accessories.
Hours are from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
For information, visit harborfreight.com.