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Restaurateur Tom Muetzel is canceling his plans to bring Ophelia’s to Commercial Street after the discovery of an underground vault caused delays.
SBJ file photo
Restaurateur Tom Muetzel is canceling his plans to bring Ophelia’s to Commercial Street after the discovery of an underground vault caused delays.

Ophelia’s owners scrap C-Street plans

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After more than a year of planning and renovation work, Tom and Lori Muetzel have decided to cancel their plans to relaunch the Ophelia’s restaurant and bar concept on Commercial Street.

Tom Muetzel announced the decision in an email to Springfield Business Journal, following a request for an update on the long-delayed project.

“After over a year of excitement, planning, hard work and investment, both Lori and I are sad to announce that Ophelia’s at 300 E. Commercial St. will not be opening,” he said. “Unexpected complications have made themselves so evident that we feel compelled to err on the side of caution and listen to what past experience has taught us.”

In September, SBJ reported the rehabilitation of the Commercial Street building — estimated at 150 years old – hit an unexpected snag: an underground cellar.

In June, co-general contractors Rob Foster of Arch Contracting LLC and Noel Day of NSD LLC began to increase the basement height to 9 feet by removing up to 3 feet of concrete and soil from the floor. During the digging process, an entry to an underground room was discovered. The barrel-vaulted room, constructed with rustic interlocking stones, was nearly full of water and debris. It took seven weeks to empty, and water still leaks into the space.

Foster told SBJ a pipe was installed to pump the water into a nearby storm-water sewer, but it would still take another 11 months to finish the remodel and make the building permanently stable.

That wait was too long for Muetzel.

“We are genuinely heartbroken to have to make such a decision,” he said by email. “Not only does Commercial Street have a bright and exciting future which we would have loved to be a part of, but the people and businesses already there have been nothing but kind and supportive.”

Muetzel said he’s unsure if Ophelia’s will reopen elsewhere in town.

“Opening a restaurant for the third time is pretty much defying the odds in the first place. Going from stop to go to stop again makes things even more difficult,” he said. “That being said, the one thing that I do know is that you never really know what is waiting for you around the next corner.”

Building co-owner Joe Hosmer said redevelopment would start back up in January, and a new tenant has already been selected. The undisclosed male restaurateur operates at least one other eatery in town, Hosmer said.

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