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Cubby Bear Pizza switches gears, eyes nightly entertainment

Cubby Bear Pizza is in a state of transition.

Six months after opening in downtown Elkhart, the eatery and bar is retooling with more emphasis on nighttime entertainment.

The marquee at 526 S. Main St., underscores that change with updates on performances and alludes to more changes by the end of December. That fact is teased on the marquee with a daily countdown.

Brothers Steve and Frank Hill have ceded operations to a group of possible investors and both parties are working toward transferring the alcohol license and other details, said Ranee Robinson, who has volunteered her efforts to help turn around the fledgling business.

Steve owns the building and Frank had managed the kitchen.

Cubby Bear Pizza opened in May with hopes of establishing a family-style restaurant in the downtown, but complaints surfaced quickly — especially on Facebook — about the food, and management was unable to gain much momentum or business after that.

Robinson declined to say exactly what will happen, but recent events posted on her Facebook page highlights some of the changes.

Robinson said she was asked by management in early October to help plan a special event for the restaurant and then began taking more of an interest as a volunteer in helping the restaurant.

“Don’t count us out. Something new is about to happen,” Robinson said.

There are lots of tentative plans. Karaoke and open mic night is set for Tuesday nights. Wednesday nights may well take on a Latino theme in a cooperative effort with the Arena, a popular Hispanic night club in Elkhart.

A disc jockey has been providing entertainment on Friday nights and they hope to have live music on Saturdays, she said.

Singer Julia James, who describes her music as “acoustic with soul,“ is scheduled to perform Thursday night, Nov. 20.

The restaurant is also actively booking holiday parties, too, Robinson said, and there is also talk of turning the lower level into a banquet hall.

Other ideas being considered include a “super soul Sunday“ theme, Robinson said.

The operators experimented with a Creole menu over two weekends and are still deciding whether that could be a regular component of the menu. For now, the Cubby Bear menu continues and includes pizza, wings and an appetizer known as mojos, she said.

Hours of operation are now 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday; noon to 2 a.m. Saturdays and noon to 7 p.m. on Sundays.

Cubby Bear filled the void left by Mad Anthony’s, a restaurant that had a three-year run but closed in January of 2011. The building then sat empty until early this year.

Steve Hill said his main goal was to buy the building and make it operable while his brother wanted to try running a restaurant.

“We never really recovered from the bad PR we had during the first few months we were open. Now that we absorbed some of that, they have a pretty good chance to make this work. They can reinvent it,” Steve Hill said.

“With social media, it’s a tough deal today. They don’t give you a chance,” he said.

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