Skeeters aims for unique mix

Bar and grill offers gadgetry in rustic setting

Saturday, March 1, 2003

A new Lawrence restaurant aims to combine rustic, western ranch decor with the newest technology.

Skeeters Bar & Grill, 3300 W. 15th St., is scheduled to open Monday, and its owner, 21-year-old Tricia Higgins, is ready for the challenge. Higgins said she thought the unique atmosphere and a great chef would help Skeeters succeed.


Richard Gwin /

Tricia Higgins is opening Skeeters, a new restaurant at 15th Street and Kasold Drive. The restaurant will have old, rustic decor with Internet access and televisions for sports fans.

"Everyone thought the location was bad, but I think it'll take off," Higgins said of the shopping center at 15th Street and Kasold Drive. "I think we've got the right stuff to make it work."

Higgins is counting on the restaurant's unique atmosphere to stand out in a dining market that some have said was becoming overcrowded. The restaurant uses posts and tins taken from an old barn on the ranch owned by Higgins' father, Mike Higgins. Stonework on the walls and in the added 30-foot bar came courtesy of her father's business, Higgins Stone.

Besides working on the limestone walls and bar, all the furniture in the restaurant will come from his Topeka store Home on the Range.

"It's me helping her get a start on life, and now we'll just see what she does with it," Mike Higgins said.

Skeeters will become the latest of the Higgins family businesses. Tricia has two brothers who own landscaping and construction companies.

Along with the rustic decor, the restaurant has some high-tech features. An Internet-access jukebox will take cash or credit cards and allow users to download music from the Internet using a touch screen.

Wireless Internet access also will be provided for customers. For a small fee, diners will be able to bring in their laptop computers and hook into the restaurant's wireless network to surf the Internet while they eat and drink.

Even the security system is high-tech. Tiny cameras have been placed around the restaurant so Higgins can keep an eye on things even when she is at home.

Skeeters will cater to sports fans with nine televisions placed throughout the restaurant. Higgins also plans to install a system that will create a rainstorm effect. Water will be pumped from whiskey barrels, and it will run down tin "roofs" that are mounted on the walls and into gutters.

Higgins, who has worked in restaurants in the Kansas City and Dallas areas, said blending the old and the new was necessary in creating the restaurant.

"We're not into the modern look; we like worn things," Higgins said. "But everyone is using technology, and more advanced is the way to go. We want to offer the best we can."

Higgins thinks her head cook, who she says is a gourmet chef from California with 12 years' experience, will add to her success. The restaurant will serve a variety of Mexican and American dishes, with seafood and steaks. Prices will range from $7 for certain sandwiches up to $30 for some steaks.

Higgins said everything on the menu was made fresh, from the salsa and chips to the French onion soup.

Previous occupants of the space -- among them Lou Zeana's and The Brass Apple -- struggled. Higgins thinks that was partly because of the availability of parking at the location. She said she was considering a valet service during dinner hours.

The restaurant's hours will be 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday, and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

-- Caroline Boyer is a Kansas University journalism student.