Lockdown in Joliet: Rock 'N' Roll Restaurant 'Nearing the Finish Line'

The Lockdown Bar & Grill planned for former Crabigale's site.

USF graduate PJ Zonis is moving forward with plans to open the Lockdown Bar & Grill in downtown Joliet. Credit: File photo
USF graduate PJ Zonis is moving forward with plans to open the Lockdown Bar & Grill in downtown Joliet. Credit: File photo
University of St. Francis graduate PJ Zonis doesn't have an opening date yet, but he said it's just a matter of time before he brings his heavy metal-themed eatery to Joliet.

"It seems we're finally at the finish line," he said of plans to bring his Lockdown Bar & Grill restaurant to the former Crabigales Comedy Club at the corner of Cass and Chicago streets. "It seems very promising that we're going to get this done."

Zonis has been in talks to purchase the site since last year. He launched the original Lockdown Bar & Grill in Chicago's Ukrainian Village more than four years ago.

The eatery boasts award-winning gourmet burgers and an extensive beer list, said Zonis, who said he's been itching to open a Joliet restaurant for years.

"I always had [Joliet] in my heart," he said. "I wanted that corner," Zonis added of the former Crabigales building, which reverted back to city ownership when the property went into foreclosure after the 2008 death of owner Brian Graf.

Zonis, who said he's also getting set to open a second Chicago restaurant, said he decided to turn his passion into a business after graduating from USF in 2002.

"I like drinking beer and I like heavy metal," he said. "It was just my passion and it just really took off from there." He said the education he got in Joliet gave him the confidence to buy the original Lockdown building shortly after graduating.

He said the Joliet restaurant will have a similar menu and concept as the Ukrainian Village location.

"There's no reason to reinvent the wheel," he said. "I think great companies and great businesses stick to what they do well — we do food and beer really well."

That means that despite Zonis' love of rock 'n' roll, there won't be any live music at the Lockdown.

"We'll let MoJoe's handle the music," Zonis said. "We'll stick to food and beer."

The original Lockdown, which has been featured on "Check, Please!" and "Chicago's Best," offers gourmet burgers with names including "The Big House," "The Lockdown Warden," "Citizens Arrest" and "The Bootleg." Check out the menu online.

Zonis said he wants to incorporate some of Joliet's history into the Lockdown, too — especially since the eatery's name is a nod to the city's prison lore.

"Lockdown is a name that just fits perfectly," Zonis said of the happy accident. "It came from a guitar teacher four or five years ago, before [opening in] Joliet was even in my mind," he said.

After the success of the Chicago location, Zonis said he felt an obligation to bring great food and drinks to Joliet.

"I feel it's my duty to do this in Joliet," he said. "I think Joliet needs this."

Last year, Zonis was looking to buy the site for $250,000. The 124-year-old structure is also known as the Loughran Building. Crabigale's closed in 2006.

Last year, City of Joliet Economic Development Director Jim Haller told Patch that officials checked out Zonis' existing restaurant before considering the deal.

"We sampled his wares, and found that he seemed to be pretty good at (what he was doing)," Haller said. "It was all about quality, all about value."
Linda Reader March 17, 2014 at 10:02 AM
Would love to see more unique eateries in Joliet. Best of luck!!!!
just me March 18, 2014 at 08:27 AM
Welcome Back!


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