The Brookfield Village Board on July 26 voted unanimously to amend its liquor code allowing Tom N Lou’s Drive In at 8819 Ogden Ave. to sell beer and wine through its drive-thru, something owner Lacey Mizell had hoped for as a novel convenience for customers.
But, if you’re hankering for a cold one to go with your Tom N Lou’s burger you’re going to have to wait a while. Mizell announced the business would be temporarily closing on July 25, just six months after it opened its doors, to undergo an interior face-lift.
Work didn’t immediately begin, leading some to speculate whether or not Tom N Lou’s was returning at all, but on Aug. 1 the interior demolition began in earnest. In an interview at the pint-sized restaurant last weekend, Mizell told the Landmark she hopes to unveil the new-look Tom N Lou’s this fall.
“I think my target is to reopen Oct. 1,” Mizell told the Landmark. “I do feel there’s an opportunity to hit that target.”
Mizell said the time was right for beginning the renovation with traffic slowing down some during the summer after a brisk spring just after opening.
“I think that there’s a lot going on,” Mizell said. “I kind of looked at COVID as one of the factors. Everyone can travel again. People can go to festivals. There’s so much happening.”
As of Aug. 7, when the Landmark visited Tom N Lou’s, all of the equipment – including the two fryers and 48-inch grill had been removed. The plan is to move the kitchen into the rear of the building, said Mizell, and increase the amount of space available for customers to wait while their orders are prepared.
Tables are not part of the remodel as that would trigger other code requirements, such as bathrooms, but Mizell said the counter along the front window will remain and she may add some barstools for additional seating.
“The idea is just to create a nicer image inside,” said Mizell, who bought the property last fall from the previous owner, who leased the space to a string of failed small hamburger and taco joints over the past seven years. “I would like to update and modernize the interior of the building.”
When it reopens the menu may change a bit, Mizell said. While the drive-thru will continue to be a focus of the place, selling burgers and chicken sandwiches, Mizell also said the new kitchen also will be equipped with a range/oven, which will allow Tom N Lou’s to offer other menu items.
“The drive-thru is still happening,” Mizell said. “As far as drive-thru liquor, I think it’s going to be really popular still. A large number of our customers are using the drive-thru. They like it. It’s great and I love offering that.”
According to the liquor code amendment adopted by the village board last month, drive-thru liquor service will require a Basset-trained employee to bring alcohol out to the vehicle and must place it into the trunk or a non-accessible rear compartment. No beer or wine will be delivered directly through the drive-thru window.
“I was really agreeable with whatever they wanted to do,” Mizell said of the trustees’ decision. “I know this was uncomfortable for some of them. I think it comes down to trust to some extent. I’m trying to be amenable to everyone and I think they see that.”
Mizell said that there will still be events at Tom N Lou’s during the construction shutdown. The popular monthly car shows, which draw 35-40 classic cars, will continue, with the next one scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 18 from 6:30 to 9 p.m.