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Big 10 Sports Bar & Grill looking to make big splash at old Skeeter Barnes location
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Big 10 Sports Bar & Grill looking to make big splash at old Skeeter Barnes location

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Cory and Stacey Schaefer already have the layout in their minds and on paper: the projector screen above the bar accompanied by numerous TVs, pool tables and dart boards, an electronic golf simulator in the back party room and a variety of seating options.

All of that and more will be at the fingertips of Columbus area residents sometime in March when Big 10 Sports Bar & Grill opens at the location previously housed by Skeeter Barnes, 510 E. 23rd St. The popular steak and barbecue joint closed in November 2019 – after about 10 years in business – when its franchise owners opted out of renewing their lease.

This provided the Schaefers with a golden opportunity to put a longtime vision into action.

“They closed their doors and we saw it on Facebook, so we called the owner of the building and asked him if we could go and take a look at it,” Stacey said. “We did a walk through and just kind of started talking about it and checked with the bank to see if it was a possibility.”

With the necessary finances in order, the couple started renovating the building’s interior, virtually gutting the main bar and dining area. Tearing out and putting it in has been the name of the game for about the past 15 days, Cory said.

The goal, he said, is to provide a family-friendly environment centered around great service, quality eats and, of course, sports.

“We will have the NFL package, everything you would really want for sports,” Cory said. “All of that we will be signing up for.”

The renovations have provided ample space for booth seating in the restaurant’s front, communal seating near the bar and additional high-top table options in other portions of the establishment. The 6-foot-long booths are perfect for larger parties that want to enjoy a sit-down meal away from some of the commotion.

“This area is more geared toward the couples and the friends and the groups coming in, eating and drinking together, sitting at high-tops watching the games,” Stacey said, referencing the communal area. “And over here, these will be low tops, the more family-friendly, kind of away from the bar.”

The Schaefers, also current owners of BK The Floor Store, noted how this isn’t their first rodeo regarding the food and bar industry. Interestingly enough, their most recent business play is a bit of a homecoming for Cory, who helped get Skeeter Barnes up and running in 2010.

Cory also helped jump start the Whiskey Sands Bar & Grill inside of the Ramada Hotel and River’s Edge Convention Center, as well as serving as a founding partner of Playmakers Bar & Grill in Lincoln in 2005. During the 2000s, the couple and their children bounced around a little between Lincoln and Columbus before finally settling permanently in town in 2010 when the Schaefers purchased BK The Floor Store from Cory’s uncle.

The goal, they said, was always to get back into the bar business at some point in time. The opportunity just had to be right.

“Me and Stacey have been wanting to open up a place from day one,” he said. “Because we’d owned a bar in Lincoln and we’ve done stuff … (This was) the right timing, the right place, the whole bit, and we talked and said that this would be the right thing. It’s something that’s going to be new, it’s something that Columbus really needs …”

With the property theirs to do as they please, the business needed a name. The couple landed on Big 10 Sports Bar & Grill for a few reasons: the establishment is positioned in Big 10 Conference country and Platte is county 10 on state license plates.

The upcoming weeks and months will be busy and exciting. In February, the business owners will start accepting resumes to fill an expected 20-30 jobs (part and full time). It will also be a time for them to fine-tune their menu, which they say consists of the typical bar-food spread in conjunction with some finer-dining options that will be prepared by an in-house chef.

Cory said that sports, of course, are a big draw, but that the vibe they are looking to create will be what keeps patrons coming back.

“You are going to have TVs all over the place, the atmosphere is going to be kind of like a (well-known wing provider), but I mean, it’s not corporate,” Cory said. “It’s going to be locally owned.”

Stacey’s vision of the final product is a place that serves as a bit of a community hub.

“I would like to touch on what a social environment we want to create,” she said. “With the communal tables up front, with the pool tables being separate from the bar-sitting area but still being out in the open, as well as the dart boards, just having those fun things going on out there where people can see even if they’re not participating, I think it just drives that social atmosphere and makes people want to talk more and hang out with each other more.”

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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News Editor

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram, Schuyler Sun and The Banner-Press newspapers. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2015.

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