Greg Behnke has big plans for re-energizing Lighthouse Square, a shopping complex located at the north end of Lincoln City. Kicking off that effort was a complete makeover of the 60’s Café & Diner, a long-time restaurant there. He is also launching a venue called The Spotlight, which will host a variety of music events and also be available to rent for private functions.
“I’m the owner’s representative for Lighthouse Square and the general manager of the café and The Spotlight,” said Behnke. Also managing the café is Kevin Szmania, and the two have breathed new life into the eating establishment that has been there for around three decades.
“It’s probably safe to say this place is doing 10 times what it’s ever done,” Behnke said, added that there are times when the café is packed, with a line of waiting customers extending out the door. “We order close to 100 gallons of ice cream at a time, twice a week. We sell 200 burgers a day. We have five freezers and three refrigerators, and that only gives us food for three to four days.”
Szmania added that the meat they use for their burgers is fresh, not frozen, as are their other ingredients, and they have completely re-vamped the menu.
The transformation of the 60’s Café & Diner began late last year. “Everything in this place is new except for some of the chairs, tables and memorabilia,” Behnke said. “We repainted everything, all new lighting, TVs, all new flooring, all the appliances in the kitchen are brand new, the air conditioning , everything on the roof is new, the outside seating is new. We put up brand new signage.”
They are open from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. every day, although they may be adjusting those hours in the near future, opening an hour earlier and closing at 9 p.m.
Behnke is particularly excited about the prospect for the new venue called The Spotlight, which is located nearby in a 6,000-square-foot space that at one time housed Blockbuster Video. His hope is to be able to keep the momentum going as the restaurant transitions from the busy summer months to the slower winter period.
“We worked diligently to find a good crew of people, and then we accomplished that,” he said. “Then going into winter we’re going to let half of them go, and they’ll be unemployed. That is just a bad business model. So we said, ‘What can we do to make that not happen.’”
He had the large empty space right near the restaurant, “so we kind of looked around to see what’s happening in the community and what needs to happen in the community,” said Behnke. That’s where the idea for a special-events venue came about.
The space has already been rented out for a private birthday party, complete with an indoor bounce house. Last weekend, The Spotlight featured a performance by the group JaSkaMon. And coming up on Sept. 1, local performer Bret Lucich will take the stage, along with Elvis impersonator Rod Sharer. But first, there will be a swing dance lesson from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., and then the music will go from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. On Saturday, Sept. 8, the Lincoln City Chamber of Commerce will hold its annual Chowder & Brewfest in the parking lot at Lighthouse Square.
“So we’ve got some good stuff in the works,” said Behnke. “Right now I’ve got five events being done under temporary permits, and if they work out and are received well, then we’ll be doing them on a regular basis.”
He also hopes to open up The Spotlight to performances by younger music groups. “The kids in this town have nowhere to go, nowhere to play music, (and) they don’t have money to rent a space.” His idea is that when there is a music event planned at The Spotlight, “to maybe open it up earlier to these kids, let them dance and do their thing, then at 7, the kids clear out, we do swing dance lessons from 7 to 8 and at 8 the bar opens and the adults come in. Everybody gets a turn. I just think it would be a great thing for the community. I’ve talked to a lot of parents about it, and they just think it’s awesome, so that’s something that we’re trying to do.”
Behnke said he also has plans in the works for around 64,000-sxquare-feet of available space elsewhere in Lighthouse Square, and he will be talking more about that as things develop.
More information about the 60’s Café & Diner and The Spotlight, located at 4157 NW Highway 101, is available by calling 541-996-6898.