A decade after the West Dodge Expressway was conceived, a popular place to go "down below" is gone. Stokes pulled up the stakes and moved a few miles west.
Work is being done at Stoke's new location, on 136th and Dodge. The longtime restaurant closed its doors on 114th Street Saturday, where they had been for 15 years.
"It's tough making a decision to move when you've been some place and successfully for as long as we have, but we think the opportunity is here," said Gayle Carstens, co-owner of Stokes.
Stokes will reopen to the public Saturday, in the building easily seen from West Dodge Road, where Ted's Montana Grill had been, and most recently Blue Agave. "We looked at this as areal opportunity, to expose ourself, obviously with the Dodge Expressway out here, and this building was available so we just thought it was a great opportunity," said Carstens.
Businesses moving out of the 114th and Dodge area was a concern ten years ago, when the expressway was just a plan on a board. "Do I think it's going to affect people? Yeah," said John Draney, owner of Omaha Wine Company, back in 2002. Channel Six News talked with Draney about his concerns then, and stopped back in to see if they came true now.
"Yeah, I think I did express concern, what I think it's done is cause people who live west, to just drive by and say 'Do I really want to go down there, really have the hassle of pulling off and getting back on in this traffic?'"
Draney said there has been an increase of bars in the area, bringing a different kind of clientelle. "What I thought would happen is it would drive a different kind of business into this neighborhood, and that's what's happened."
Carstens said it's not the expressway which forced Stokes out, but it didn't help increase business. "We hope that we're being exposed to a lot more people that maybe just weren't aware of us kind of hidden down there where we were at," said Carstens.