When the Sizzler on the corner of 2100 South and 1300 East in Sugar House shut its doors for good last fall, my husband was oddly devastated. Although he hadn’t dined there in 29 years, he felt comfort in the stability it represented.
“It has been there my whole life,” he laments. It was one of the few remaining monuments of the Sugar House he knew as a kid, and the lot it sits on is now for sale for a whopping 5.5 million bucks.
One of America’s first casual steakhouse chains, Sizzler filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 2020, citing the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic. Many restaurant chains have suffered throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but Sizzler has been in a general decline in recent years according to data from Restaurant Business, and this wasn’t Sizzler’s first bankruptcy filing.
The question of what will take Sizzler’s place in Sugar House is bringing out strong emotions in the community. It’s the only privately-owned site in Sugar House Park, and with the multi-million dollar price tag, there are few options that could prove profitable for potential investors.
According to Judi Short, chair of the Sugar House Community Council Land Use & Zoning Committee, the parcel would have to be rezoned to allow for something that would make money for the property owner. So, one of the few things that could provide a worthwhile profit would be an apartment complex, and Short says she’s heard that it would need to be at least ten stories tall to provide a good return on investment.
Respondents to a community survey overwhelmingly opposed another apartment in Sugar House, especially one so tall on the corner of a park. Less than a dozen of the more than 300 comments received wanted to see the lot rezoned for apartments, and a majority of the comments favored incorporating the lot into the park. Suggestions included expanding the entrance to the park, adding green space, or opening a new restaurant or coffee shop ― something park visitors could use.
Short approached the city about acquiring the lot but does not know if they are looking into it. Considering the 5.5 million dollar price tag, it’s unlikely the city is seriously interested. “The city doesn’t have a pot of gold sitting around,” says Short.
No real proposals have come through at this time, and although it seems like an apartment may be the only option to justify the high price, constructing one on that corner will not be without difficulty.
The 0.82-acre site is very small, and access would be a challenge given the busy 2100 South and 1300 East intersection. All parking would have to be onsite, considering parking is not allowed on either street or in the park overnight. An apartment would most likely need more acreage, but as it is, the Sugar House Park Authority is not able to sell any land to the Sizzler parcel because under their agreements, any use of their land has to be for open space.
A new developer has approached the city about a possible land swap, but the details of this are unknown at the present time. Short apologized for the non-answer when I asked her about the fate of the lot, but there just aren’t any answers at this time.
My husband says it would have been easier if the lot just stayed a Sizzler. “That was the Sizzler’s home. Nobody ever thought or questioned its existence even though it is the one business in the park,” he says. According to him, the lot can only become part of the park or it must go back to being a Sizzler.