The owners of a longtime South Side restaurant said its goal is to eventually reopen.

The owners of a longtime South Side restaurant said its goal is to eventually reopen.

Army & Lou’s, 422 E. 75th St., temporarily closed on Jan. 30 after the economy shrunk its monthly foot traffic to 750 from 1,500 customers, said Harry Fleming, a part owner of the 66-year-old soul food restaurant.

“At the end of the day people stop eating out so much because they could no longer afford it. We began to see a big dip in customers July 2010,” Fleming told the Defender. “And despite our best effort to weather the storm we were not able to do so.”

As a result, some 30 part-time workers there lost their jobs. Employee cost was one contributing factor to the restaurant’s closure and food cost was another. Food purchases went up and added to restaurant’s problems, said Deloris Reynolds, principal owner for the last 17 years.

“Small businesses have been affected the most from the economy and Army & Lou’s is a small business,” Reynolds told the Defender. “So to stop the bleeding we agreed to close the doors temporarily.

Reynolds said she is prepared to do whatever it takes to reopen even if it means selling her majority interest in Army & Lou’s.

“I am open to selling the business or bringing in more investors,” she said. “I just want to see the business reopen and remain apart of the community.”

And Fleming said while its catering business is still running “we are not accepting any new orders at this time.” He said when the restaurant closed it had some prior catering orders so it is honoring those agreements.

During its heyday Army & Lou’s served meals to civil rights leader Martin L. King Jr., boxing legend Muhammad Ali and jazz great Cab Calloway.

Alderman Freddrenna Lyle (6th), whose ward office is located down the street from Army & Lou’s, was a regular customer.

“I am hopeful they will reopen,” Lyle said. “My staff and I would order from them all the time. No one knew how bad this economy would last and the devastating effect it is having on everyone.”

Prices for meals at Army & Lou’s ranged from $8 to $25 and its menu selection encompassed a variety choices from chitterlings, pork chops, ribs, catfish, fried chicken, and Creole shrimp to side items like greens, dressing, yams and red beans and rice. Special occasions, such as graduations and birthdays, were held regularly inside the restaurant’s private room.

Other local soul food restaurants that preceded Army & Lou’s closure include Edna’s, 3175 W. Madison St., which closed in December after the owner died, and Soul Queen, 9031 S. Stony Island Ave., which closed in 2009 after its owner died.

Army & Lou’s temporarily closed in 1992 but reopened the same year under new ownership.

Founded in 1945 by William and Luvilla Armstrong the restaurant was later sold to Charles and Mary Cole in 1973. In 1987 the Cole’s retired and sold the business to new owners, who later sold it in 1992 to its current owners.

Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender

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