Star Bar and Restaurant, a mainstay at I-94 and Highway S for 70 years, is closing today.
Light dims on historic restaurant
Sept. 1, 2008
Star Bar closes its doors after 70 years
PARIS – This weekend has been a time for tears, hugs and reminiscing at Star Bar and Restaurant, the nearly 70-year-old landmark at I-94 and Highway S that has been a premier spot for locals, visitors and truckers.
The business will close at noon today.
“I have done my share of crying,” said a tearful Betty Sutkiewica, who has waitressed at Star for 21 years and spent most of the weekend hugging her customers. “I love all of my customers … well, most of the time. This is hard for me; so much of my life has been here with all of these wonderful people.”
In stark contrast to a display chronicling the establishment’s 70-year anniversary were two handwritten signs explaining the somewhat unexpected closing. Due to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s reconstruction of the I-94 on and off ramps, the property was acquired by the state.
While owners David and Stephanie Slamar considered relocating or opening another restaurant, both are ready for a change.
“My wife and I have owned this restaurant for 14 years, but it has been in her family for 70 years,” said David. “Stephanie, who is the backbone of this business, started here washing dishes as a little kid, and my father-in-law Steve Savas still works here – he owned the business until he sold it to us.”
While the DOT wanted the Slamars out of the restaurant by Oct. 1, the couple decided to close by going out during the biggest weekend of the summer.
“Yes, we decided to go out with a bang,” admitted David, wiping sweat from his brow. “With Labor Day, Harley Fest and all of our regulars coming in here, it has been an extremely busy weekend.”
David and Stephanie compared the restaurant to Cheers, “Where everybody knows your name.”
“I will miss the customers the most,” he said. “This is where I can see a lot of people, and they can see us. In fact, some of our customers have been coming for the entire 70 years – since they were little kids.”
For many, such as Paris Town Chairman Virgil Gentz, Friday nights will never be the same.
“My wife Gail and I have been coming here since 1961, and we will definitely miss the Friday fish frys,” he said. “We will also miss all the local folks -we have good friendships with the owner and with Steve.”
The change will be tough on Tim Schumann, Mike Rubin, Walt Scheunemann and Dawn Pohlson, employees from Stick and Rudder at the Kenosha Airport. The foursome has come for lunch every Friday for several years.
“We will especially miss the egg salad sandwiches and breakfast at lunch,” Schumann said. “We aren’t sure where we will go now for our weekly lunches because we are so sick of all the chain stuff. It is a treat to come here; everything else is blasé compared to this place.”
For waitresss Debbie Ironside, who served customers at Star for nine years, and Laurie Cousins, an 11-year veteran, the two will take time to recuperate and mourn the loss of their “family.”
“I don’t know what I will do without them because now we won’t be seeing each other day after day,” Ironside said. “This is a very sad time for all of us.”
Cousins plans to retire for awhile to take care of her family of six.
“I will really miss my regulars, but it will be good to have weekends with my family again,” she said. “I have teenagers now and two dogs that need my attention.”
An abundance of fond memories makes Steve Savas smile, but one in particular stands out as most meaningful – the day Howard Brown, Kenosha News president, came for lunch.
“He presented me with the newspaper clipping of when I was named Person of the Year in 2005,” he explained. “I was so touched. He stayed for lunch, and when he was finished, I picked up the tab. Do you know he actually got mad and insisted that he pay the bill? So, of course, I had to let him pay it!”