When he was a teenager, Bennie Parr Jr. used to hang out in downtown Belleville when there wasn’t much happening at night.
But now downtown crowds are a regular occurrence and Parr plans to join the scene by opening Bennie’s Pizza Pub, which will feature pizza by the slice, salads and a signature bloody mary during a “Sunday Funday” brunch with breakfast-style pizzas on Sundays.
Bennie’s Pizza Pub is taking over the space where the Righteous Pig barbecue restaurant was located, at 124 E. Main St., before it closed in November.
Parr estimates he’ll open his pub in June after renovations are finished and he gets all the necessary permits. The renovations will include a new bar and pizza ovens.
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The menu is still being developed but Parr envisions a pizza style “that everybody’s going to like” with all the classic toppings and daily specials with different toppings. Parr said customers will order food at the counter for either dine in or take out.
“I want it to be much more than just a pizza place. I want it to be a fun, cool place that you want to hang out,” Parr said.
He hopes to book bands and keep the kitchen open until 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays because other downtown restaurants usually close their kitchens much earlier in the evening.
He also does work as a DJ in Belleville. For instance, you may have seen him during the downtown St. Patrick’s Day block party last Saturday when he was emcee for the event.
The outdoor sign for Bennie’s Pizza Pub will feature a facsimile of Parr's late father’s signature of “Bennie” and the pub will have an “open kitchen” design.
The streetscape project on Main Street and the "top notch" festivals make downtown an attractive place to open a business, Parr said.
Other downtown business owners have been helpful as he works to get the restaurant open.
“They are amazing down here,” he said.
And he can’t wait to get to join the downtown business owners.
“I was born and raised in Belleville and I love Belleville, I really do,” Parr said. “I definitely see that downtown is coming back. We’re getting lots of new businesses. I think downtown is definitely going to be hopping this summer with all the new businesses coming.”