It only has been a little more than two weeks since the Uno Chicago Grill on Freedom Road shuttered its doors, but a new restaurant already is on the way to replace it.
Sean Pregibon, owner of the former Youngstown Sports Grille in Ohio, is bringing his kid-friendly, sports-themed restaurant to Cranberry.
“We really build our concept around the kids and the families,” he said. “It’s not a sports bar, but rather a sports grille.”
A franchise of Pregibon’s Youngstown eatery, which had been open for about a decade before closing in March, the new restaurant will be called The Sports Grille at Cranberry.
Like the location in Ohio, Pregibon, of Youngstown, said the restaurant in Cranberry would feature traditional American fare ranging from wings and fries to baby-back ribs and specialty salads.
All of the restaurant’s dressings will be homemade, as will the soups, the barbecue sauce on the wings and the marinara sauce, which Pregibon said comes straight from his mother-in-law’s recipe.
“It’s a casual, come-as-you are type of atmosphere,” he said.
It’s also one that will be built around athletics, both professional and local.
Pregibon said there would be 40 high-definition, flat-screen televisions perfect for sport viewing located throughout the restaurant. There also will be an enclosed play area for children that will house a ball pit, slides and games.
“That’s really been one of our secrets to success,” he said with a laugh.
A married father of two little ones age 6 and 4, Pregibon said he hopes the restaurant will become a popular destination for little league players and their families after games.
“We really cater to the local athletes in the area,” he said. “That’s what our customer base is set around, communities that really endorse local athletics and have strong ties to the school district.”
Pregibon said he also plans to extend the restaurant’s outdoor patio, which, in the warmer months, will feature live music five nights a week. In the winter, the entertainment will move indoors, he said.
Attracted to Cranberry because of its growing population—as well as its strong youth sports organizations—Pregibon said he scouted the area for at least three years to find the right spot to open a new restaurant.
He perfect location turned out to be the former Uno’s, which closed July 2.
Pregibon said he is leasing the building from its owner, Gus Pagonis, with the option to buy the property later down the road.
Uno spokesman Rick Hendrie said Pagonis, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general who served as director of logistics in the Gulf War, made the decision to close the restaurant.
“It’s a franchise restaurant, which we means we don’t control their business decisions,” Hendrie said. “From what I can tell, the business climate changed.”
He added Pagonis—who he called well-respected within the company—ran the restaurant to Uno's business standards. Pagonis could not immediately be reached for comment.
A liquor license transfer from Uno’s to The Sports Grille at Cranberry currently is in progress, Pregibon said. He said he already has spoken to about 25 former Uno employees about working at the new restaurant. He also plans to hire another 30 to 40 people before the grille’s opening in September.
“Starting in two weeks, we will be accepting applications,” he said.
Pregibon said he hopes to hold the restaurant’s grand opening Sept. 1, which, coincidentally, is the first football game of the season for the University of Pittsburgh Panthers. The players are taking on the Youngstown State Penguins, Pregibon's hometown team.
For the opening celebration, Pregibon said he plans to hold a tailgate party in the restaurant’s parking lot. There also will be charter buses to bring fans from the Youngstown area to The Sports Grille at Cranberry and then down to Pittsburgh for the Panther's home game at Heinz Field.
“We’re going to kick it off in style,” Pregibon said. “It’s almost fate this game is taking place that day.”