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Game Bar, Closed Since Jacksonville Landing Shooting, Could Reopen As Benny’s Closes

Chicago Pizza at the Jacksonville Landing.
Lindsey Kilbride
Chicago Pizza at the Jacksonville Landing.

Chicago Pizza at the Jacksonville Landing is trying to reopen its video game bar, closed since a deadly shooting there last August, as another restaurant at the shopping center closes its doors.

On Monday, Chicago Pizza and Sports Grill owner Clifton Comastro applied to the city for a certificate of use to allow “indoor recreation and entertainment facilities,” a necessary step if the business wants to reopen and operate the GLHF Game Bar attached to the riverfront restaurant.

GLFH stands for good luck, have fun.

General Manager Landon Paul said Thursday he hopes to reopen the game bar by February or March.

“We’re trying to get back to what we were before, a bright spot for downtown Jacksonville,” Paul said. “To do that, we’re getting all of the necessary approvals to make the city and fire marshal happy and to make sure this is the safest environment possible,” he said.

The city fire marshal closed the restaurant and game bar following the deadly shooting during a Madden NFL ’19 video game tournament.

A participant visiting Jacksonville from the Baltimore area shot a dozen people, killing two and taking his own life.

Following the shooting, city inspectors cited Chicago Pizza for code violations.

The city said the restaurant was not permitted to host the event at the time, saying in a report that the addition of a game room was never part of approved building plans submitted in 2009.

The restaurant eventually reopened, but the game bar remained closed.

“That was a big part of our sales, it was keeping us going,” Paul said. “We had something really unique that attracted a lot of customers.”

Paul said Chicago Pizza, like other establishments in the shopping center, are struggling to attract customers outside of planned events.

“It’s been a very drastic hit to our business and our sales,” Paul said. “Like a lot of the other businesses in the Downtown area, there’s not a lot of traffic coming through.”

The bar featured a mix of arcade-style games, pinball machines, video game consoles and desktop computers for online gaming.

Paul said there won’t be any major structural changes. He said management believes it has addressed issues with respect to electrical systems, layout and access to entrances and exits.

Meanwhile, Jacksonville Landing COO Michael McNaughton announced Benny’s Steak and Seafood has closed.

“As we work to program the future of The Jacksonville Landing, our goal is to incorporate the best and most relevant operators for downtown today and the future,” McNaughton said in a written statement sent to WJCT News.

The three buildings that comprise the Landing are owned and operated by Jacksonville Landing Investments LLC, a subsidiary of Sleiman Enterprises.

JLI leases the property from the city, and the two sides are suing each other over the deteriorated state of the riverfront mall.

Despite that dispute and any effects on tenants, Chicago Pizza General Manager Landon Paul said he’s confident the gaming community will embrace GLHF when it reopens this year.

“We’ve had really awesome support from the community,” he said. “We know our gaming customers can’t wait for us to reopen.