Belleville

Fischer’s Restaurant demolition ‘worse than expected’ for co-owner

Demolition of Fischer’s restaurant and banquet hall has started

The demolition of Fischer’s Restaurant at 2100 W. Main St. in Belleville, Illinois is underway. The iconic restaurant and banquet hall closed Feb. 15, 2017, after more than 80 years.
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The demolition of Fischer’s Restaurant at 2100 W. Main St. in Belleville, Illinois is underway. The iconic restaurant and banquet hall closed Feb. 15, 2017, after more than 80 years.

Annette Allan said the “horrible” day she dreaded has arrived.

Allan, a co-owner of the former Fischer’s Restaurant that is being torn down, said in January that the iconic Belleville restaurant might have to be demolished since the family couldn’t find a buyer.

And on Monday, crews began the demolition of the restaurant and banquet center at 2100 W. Main St.

“I think it’s worse than I probably expected it,” said Allan, one of the co-owners and daughter of the late owner, Kenny Fischer. “I knew it was going to be hard and it is very hard to see our customers come by.”

The restaurant, where generations of metro-east families celebrated weddings and gathered for Sunday dinners, was shut down in February 2017 after more than 80 years in operation.

In January 2016, the longtime owner, Kenny Fischer, had died.

Restaurant memories

Allan remembers working in the restaurant as a young girl.

Some of her first jobs included making pizzas, checking coats and bussing tables.

“It’s all I’ve known all my life,” she said.

Carmen Duco, who was elected to the Belleville City Council this year, worked at Fischer’s for over 30 years and her mother, Anne Duco, worked there for about 40 years.

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Workers with Hank’s Excavating & Landscaping Inc. started the demolition of Fischer’s Restaurant at 2100 W. Main St. in Belleville on Monday. The iconic restaurant and banquet hall closed Feb. 15, 2017, after more than 80 years. Derik Holtmann dholtmann@bnd.com

Duco stopped by the site Monday and Tuesday to take pictures as the building was torn down.

“I’m very sad,” Duco said. “I spent a lot of my life there. I was sad the day it closed. It’s tough because a lot of us had been there most of our lives. It will leave a big void on Main Street and I hope something good happens there.”

Like the Duco family, there were others that had parents and children work at Fischer’s for decades.

Potential buyers

Allan said the demolition process is scheduled to be finished in about two weeks when the site will be seeded with grass.

She said it’s too early to say what will happen with the three-acre site after the demolition is finished.

The restaurant originally was listed for $940,00 and the price was dropped to $575,000. Allan said none of the potential buyers could strike a deal.

Matt Barriger, a broker with the BarberMurphy Group that listed Fischer’s, said potential buyers would take a look at the restaurant and banquet center but they could not afford the cost to install fire suppression sprinklers throughout the rambling building as the fire department would require.

A sale to a new owner would trigger many rules that the existing owners did not have to follow, Barriger noted, and that potential buyers didn’t think it was worthwhile to spend the money needed to get an occupancy permit.

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In this file photo from February 2017, Allen Irby consoles Fischer’s kitchen supervisor Wyvette Jones as she breaks down in tears on the last day of business at the popular Belleville restaurant. News-Democrat file photo

The Fischer family does expect to save on property taxes after the building is torn down. Their latest property tax bill is over $16,000.

The restaurant traced its roots to a Belleville ice cream shop that Allan’s grandfather, Ardell Fischer, opened with his wife, Inez, in 1935. They moved to the site at 2100 W. Main St. in 1941 and initially called the drive-in The Dutch Girl.

The restaurant evolved over the years. It once offered Chateaubriand and table-side cherries jubilee but in recent years was known for being family-oriented and offering a fine casual atmosphere.

Customers went there for fried chicken, prime rib and pizza.

“We just want to thank everyone for a great, good run for 80 years,” Allan said. “Wish we had another 80 to do it, but times have changed.”

BEHIND OUR REPORTING

Why did we report this story?

We wanted to give readers a chance to reminisce about their memories of the former Fischer’s Restaurant, which is being demolished.

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Mike Koziatek joined the Belleville News-Democrat in 1998 as an assistant editor and is now a reporter covering the Belleville area. He graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee and grew up in St. Louis.
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