Ribbon Cut

Historic Logan County business gets new owners and new name ‘The Lodge Off 66’

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[July 19, 2022]  At noon on Saturday the interior at the Lodge Off 66 quickly became standing room only as people gathered to celebrate the grand opening of the establishment located on Illinois Route 121 just south of Hartsburg.

The Lodge Off 66 is a story of taking something old and historical and giving it a new life while preserving all about it that is a part of the rich Logan County history with Route 66. Indeed the establishment is not on Route 66, but there are documented ties between the Lodge and such notorious Route 66 characters such as Al Capone and Coonhound Johnny.

As a part of the grand opening event hosted on Saturday, July 2nd there was a ribbon cutting ceremony outside at noon.

The new owners of the establishment are Kristi Powell and Randy Jones. Outside at noon, the owners along with their spouses, parents, children, and even grandchildren gathered behind the ribbon for the ceremony led by the LDN ribbon cutters.

Joining Jones, Powell and the families were Hartsburg Mayor Norma Bathe, Renee Martin representing Senator Sally Turner who was unable to attend, Representative Tim Butler and Geoff Ladd with the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byways. The Logan County Tourism Bureau was represented by LCTB board member and Lincoln Alderman Rick Hoefle and LCTB Assistant Director Lexi Groves.

With everyone gathered behind the ribbon the ceremony began with a thank you expressed to Jones and Powell saying that the two were taking an historic business establishment in Logan County and breathing new life into it while preserving its historic value.

The floor was then given to Powell and Jones. Powell thanked all those who were there to help celebrate the moment. She said “Randy is a wonderful partner. Who knew that we would end up opening a bar? We love the history.” She went on to say that they could not have done what they are doing without the support of the community and she pointed out and thanked her husband Deron for his support, as well as both the Powell and Jones family members.

Mayor Bathe said that on behalf of the Hartsburg community she wanted to welcome Powell and Jones and thanked them for their investment in the community. She said, “This is a place of history and it is always good to hang on to history.”

Representative Butler spoke and offered a special present to the new owners. He said, “When Kristi said they were going to be doing this as the Lodge Off 66, I thought it is kind of off 66. But I think this speaks to the power of Route 66. This is going to be a great stop for people traveling 66.”

Butler presented the bar with the Route 66 Historic Route marker that is a part of the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byways promotion of the Mother Road. He concluded, “Thank you guys for doing this. Congratulations, this is awesome and thank you for promoting Route 66 so on behalf of myself and the Scenic Byways.”

The cut was led by Nila Smith with Lincoln Daily News who is also a member of the Logan County Tourism Bureau. She said that earlier in the week she had been asked about the name of the bar and had noted that inside there is a sign that says that Tom’s Lodge is six miles from Lincoln, thus it is six miles from Route 66. She said there is documented history that Capone and Coonhound Johnny were frequent visitors to the establishment and that those two characters epitomize the rich history of Route 66 locally.

She said, “On behalf of the Logan County Tourism Bureau we want to say thank you to Kristi and Randy for keeping the history intact.”

The last person to address the group was Geoff Ladd with the Illinois Route 66 Byways. He also congratulated the pair on their new business venture and spoke about the valuable history that is being preserved and promoted. He noted that there are also ties between the Lodge and the Mill on Route 66 located in Lincoln.

Ladd was also documenting the ribbon cutting and said afterward that he will be working on a history for the Scenic Byway. He said that he will release information to the press at a later date.

When all the speakers were finished, the group stood for the posed picture then Jones and Powell snipped the ribbon on their new business venture.

Inside there was a large refreshment table with plenty of food for everyone. Outside, live music provided by the 70’s Acoustic Show.

In the week before the grand opening Powell talked about the decision to purchase what is most famously known in Logan County as Tom’s Lodge.

Powell retired this spring from a long career with Heartland Community College, serving at the Lincoln Campus. She said that in the back of her mind she has always harbored a thought of owning an establishment such as the Lodge.

She said that growing up watching Cheers on television, she envisioned that kind of place, where everyone knew each other and were grinds that enjoyed spending time together. She said that she also had an interest in the history and with this business she saw the potential to preserve history as well as that feeling of comradery among the patrons.

Jones and Powell’s husband Deron are friends and it was those two who discovered that the lodge was for sale. Jones expressed an interest in buying the bar and Deron Powell took the idea to Kristi and the partnership began.

Powell said she was attracted to the building because it tells its own story.

The original business was Hutton’s Lodge. The structure began its life as a hunting lodge in Louisiana. It was disassembled and shipped to Illinois on the railroad and offloaded from the railcar just feet from where it is now located.


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The first bar opened in 1929 and was maintained as Hutton’s Lodge, owned by Jerry Ogden and his wife Jennie. Al Capone visited Hutton’s regularly where Jennie did the cooking for the business. It is reported that Capone loved Jennie’s potato salad and often praised her for her cooking.

The business was next owned by a couple named Lonnie and Mae and the business was called by their first names. One of the fun facts about the bar when it was Lonnie and Mae’s is the pet monkey that was always at the bar. Powell talked about the monkey saying that the story goes that Lonnie had taught the monkey to swipe loose change laying on the bar. From time to time, he would let the monkey roam freely on the bar, and he would snatch up all the coins laying there. The customers so enjoyed the antics that they often put change out on the bar just to watch the monkey do his thing.

Tom Imming of Hartsburg purchased the bar in 1969 and changed the name to Tom’s Lodge. It remained Tom’s Lodge until March of 2015.

Tom Imming passed away in 2014 and his wife Barbara kept the business going for a year, but finally made the decision to close the bar and sell the property.

Powell said that inside the building the history shows in the structure. She pointed to the ceiling in the bar area and noted that the roughhewn logs that construct the ceiling are original to Hutton’s Lodge and she loves them.

Inside there were other treasures. She said that she and Jones had found an old Budweiser Carousel upstairs and had cleaned it up and brought it down to put on display in the social area.

Four of the bar stools are original to Tom’s Lodge. Powell said that they needed some attention, so she and Jones had painted each one a different color that reflects the colors used in their logo.

Another prized possession of Jones and Powell is the Tom’s Lodge sign that hangs over the bar. Powell noted that it was put up to tell people how far it was to places they knew such as Decatur, Peoria, St. Louis and of course, Lincoln.

Resting beside the Tom’s lodge sign are two more prized possessions, both photos of Coonhound Johnny at the lodge.

Powell said that the partnership is working out well and includes Deron though he stays somewhat in the background. She said Jones handles the bar work including the cleaning and stocking of product. He also tends bar, as does Kristi from time to time. Deron acts as their business consultant.

Kristi said they closed the deal on the property and the business at 9 a.m. and opened for their first day of business at 1 p.m. She said they had purchased the property and the business corporation so there would be no interruption in licenses needed for liquor and gaming.

Looking back now a few weeks after the fact she thinks maybe they could have taken a little more time to re-open, but it all worked out. She said that there was so much to learn from dealing with taxes and payroll to staff management and then just taking care of the beverage menu and inventory.

She said she had good friends in business, Lisa Mestinsek of the Top Hat Creamery in Lincoln and Colleen Roate of the Spirited Republic, who helped her out a lot with understanding some of the tasks she needed to perform.

The Lodge Off 66 will feature a variety of beers and mixed drinks. Powell said they will offer pizza, but don’t intend to get into the food to the same extent that previous owners have done.

She and Randy will have their own drinks and Randy has already got his, a spiked lemonade he calls “the RJ.” Kristi is undecided on what her beverage will be but is working on it.

The primary changes the partners have made at the business included an outdoor patio through the back door of the bar. Concrete is set and the construction of a pergola is underway.

Powell said there will be special events and activities at the Lodge and she is looking into providing live entertainment nights and events that include food trucks and outdoor activities.

A large screen television in the community area of the Lodge will give patrons an option for watching local sports. That portion of the Lodge is also very comfortable with a large sofa, a raised table, and a regular table where folks can gather to visit and share stories.

And, the stories are going to be a big part of the establishment. Powell said she is looking forward to spending time at the bar and visiting with the patrons and drawing from them the stories they have of the Lodge in its previous lives.

She noted that the Lodge mantra is “Stop for a drink - stay for a story.” The story is what Jones and Powell look forward to most, and hope the community will stop in to share their personal history with Tom’s Lodge or stories passed down through the generations of experiences at Hutton’s Lodge, and Lonnie and Mae’s.

The Lodge Off 66 is open seven days a week. Hours are Monday through Thursday 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday through Sunday 1 p.m. to 11 p.m.

[Nila Smith]

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