An electrifying new tenant is getting ready to light up the corner of the Lister Block in downtown Hamilton.
City councillors have given preliminary approval to lease the unit at the corner of James Street North and King William Street to the co-owners of Electric Diner, who are seeking to open a companion to their 80s-themed restaurant in Hess Village.
The lease agreement was approved 11-0 during Wednesday’s general issues committee meeting and still needs to be ratified by city council but if it passes, the diner could be ready to open by the fall.
The corner unit in the heritage building has been empty since Wendel Clark’s Classic Grill and Bar shut its doors in 2019 and the lease with the city was ultimately terminated in April 2020 when the restaurant operator couldn’t find another business to take over the lease.
Erika Puckering, who owns Electric Diner with her partner Jamie, said they’ve been working with the city for the past ten months on opening a second restaurant in the Lister Block.
“I’ve actually had my eye on it for a couple of years now and just had a vision of Electric Diner in that spot,” she told Global News. “It reminds me of a couple of diners that we have seen in New York that inspired us. Junior’s, in particular, downtown in New York, near Times Square.”
Part of the process of moving into the Lister Block will be ensuring, as with any business that occupies the space, that their operations don’t interfere with the heritage features of the building.
That means there can be no “external works” and the city must approve any signs or advertising visible from the Anne Foster windows –– so it won’t be a direct replica of the George Street restaurant, which has a very bright and vivid exterior, painted pink and light blue with neon signage.
“The idea would be a more elevated Electric Diner vibe — still with the 80s theme that we have going here, but a little bit more Cocktails and Dreams and a little bit less She-Ra, Care Bears, and Rainbow Brite, if that makes any sense.”
Puckering said the main reason for wanting to move into the Lister Block is that business has been so good that they’ve outgrown the small space in Hess Village and want to expand with a space that can accommodate larger parties.
That success comes despite someone stealing all four heaters used to keep Electric Diner’s outdoor patio open in January when the province was under yet another COVID-related lockdown.
Thankfully, a keen-eyed Hamiltonian spotted the heaters on someone’s property and they were returned, allowing the restaurant to remain operating while dining restrictions were in effect.
“We’re just thankful that we’re still standing here and able to open a second location,” said Puckering.
“If you asked me this a year ago if that was what we had anticipated after being locked down, I would I wouldn’t believe that we’d be here. So we’re very lucky.”