Owner's death leaves Jack's Bar's plans at standstill

Published: Monday, April 1, 2013 at 5:01 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, April 1, 2013 at 5:01 p.m.

When the owner of two Gainesville bars died last month, he left behind an unfinished project.

Sixty-year-old William Chick, the founder of Balls Sports Bar in Midtown and the downtown Jack’s Bar, died Feb. 14 of cancer.

He had started turning the empty lot adjacent to Jack’s at South Main Street and Southwest First Avenue into an outdoor serving area and beer garden.

For three years, he worked at renovating the plot and securing city permits to allow outdoor service of alcohol on the property, at 20 S. Main St.

Now, the intended beer garden remains surrounded by a chain-link fence. Shards of concrete are scattered over upturned dirt, and pipes stick out of holes in the ground.

Lawrence Calderon, the lead planner for the city of Gainesville, said the plan was to renovate the establishment in two phases.

Originally, he said, Jack’s was a mostly outdoor establishment, but that defied city code.

“The question with Jack’s Bar is that it did not have a fully established, enclosed building to operate,” he said. “A significant portion of it was outside. In the city, you cannot have a business that is fully outside.”

Under city code, an outdoor area could be an accessory to the bar, he said, and the city decided Jack’s Bar would be in compliance as long as Chick fully enclosed an interior area.

So Chick started renovations that included roofing, plumbing, sewer and electrical work. But his battle with cancer eventually halted the second phase of adding a deck and outdoor seating area.

“He had been very, very active working with us on the permits,” Calderon said. “All of a sudden, it stopped. He was the driving force behind it.”

According to city records, the most recent permit issued to Jack’s Bar was for commercial remodeling, and it expired Aug. 15, 2012.

Calderon said the city is being patient with management as it reorganizes and steadies the course for the future of Jack’s Bar.

“They haven’t done any inspections out there for quite awhile,” he said. “We’re really hoping that somebody … will pick up the pieces … and get the thing going again. That’s really what we’d like to do. We are administratively trying to help them out …which we had been doing while he was ill.”

Tim Blakely, a bartender at both Jack’s and Balls, said construction on the outdoor area is at a standstill.

“Honestly, things are still up in the air,” he said. “We’re still trying to figure out what’s what and who’s who.”

He said Chick’s prominence makes it hard to move on immediately with business as usual.

“He was an important man to a lot of people,” he said.

Chick’s death will not affect the operation of Balls, said Dustin Stower, Chick’s business manager.

“Nothing has changed,” he said. “Nothing will change.”

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