Why this vacant Hamilton building will become the city’s latest new restaurant

Cincinnati-based Cafeo Hospitality Group plans to open casual hand-crafted burger restaurant Billy Yanks at 201 Main St. in Hamilton next spring. Cafeo Hospitality Group’s list of restaurants and entertainment venues include Jefferson Social, Incline Public House, Press on Monmouth, SOMM Wine Bar and Kitchen and The Bell Event Centre. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

The co-owner of a Cincinnati hospitality group said a Hamilton building is “a great opportunity” for a new restaurant specializing in hand-crafted burgers and cocktails.

Billy Yanks is expected to open at 201 Main St. next spring. It will be run by the Cafeo Hospitality Group, known for Jefferson Social (The Banks Riverfront Entertainment District), Incline Public House (Price Hill), Press on Monmouth (Newport, Kentucky), Somm Wine Bar (Price Hill) and The Bell Event Centre (Over-The-Rhine).

“The building, in particular, was a great opportunity for a concept like Billy Yanks because it’s an ideal location with convenient adjacent parking, good sidewalk and street visibility, and the building itself provided a strong canvas for the service layout we wanted,” said Cafeo Hospitality Group co-owner Tony Cafeo.

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Billy Yanks will offer specialty burgers and a build-your-own custom menu, plus signature mac-and-cheese in a variety of flavor combinations. It also will offer appetizers, desserts, fresh soups, salads and sandwiches.

The new restaurant is named for the sculpture that stands atop the iconic Butler County Soldiers, Sailors, and Pioneers Monument, one that depicts Billy Yank, a common name for Union soldiers during the Civil War.

Located at the southwest corner of Main and C Streets, the building in which the restaurant will open was constructed in 1866, according to Butler County Auditor’s Office records. City records show it has been vacant for about four years.

Cafeo Hospitality Group has focused on creating recognizable and high-performing destination venues in growing Greater Cincinnati communities since 1995, according to Christy Cafeo, the group’s president. It was “an integral part” of the revitalization of Main Street in Over-the-Rhine and now is part of the ongoing revitalization of East Price Hill, Tony Cafeo said.

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“Being part of building a community and developing a business that becomes home to thousands of people is a great feeling,” Cafeo said. “Leaving a lasting legacy where we are able to say we were a small part of something big is incredible.”

Cafeo said the city of Hamilton “is a shining example of growth and progress in Northern Cincinnati.”

The building at 201 Main St. will be gutted, stripped to the studs and rebuilt, with the entire project costing approximately $1.2 million, Cafeo said.

Cafeo Hospitality Group was in consideration for the former Quarter Barrel Brewery + Pub at 103 Main St., but did not want to continue to brew beer in the space, so city officials suggested they look at some other properties, he said.

“There was a group with an option (at 201 Main St.) who have interest in the building in Newport, where Press on Monmouth is,” Cafeo said. “We started talking and decided to partner in the (Hamilton) building. We’ve been discussing since February.”

Billy Yanks has signed a 10-year lease for the site, he said.

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Cafeo Hospitality Group has paid particular attention to the city’s “amazing growth,” Cafeo said. That includes construction on Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill approximately half a mile away, a $144 million project slated to open in late 2021.

“We’re confident that the city as a whole has tremendous growth on the horizon,” he said. “Tons of great new dining, entertainment and businesses like Spooky Nook and Billy Yanks are part of that growth.”

Cafeo Hospitality Group is finalizing the Billy Yanks menu with Hamilton-area native Jason Campbell, one of the restaurant's operating partners, Cafeo said.

Billy Yanks is the latest development in Hamilton’s revitalization efforts. Other high-profile Greater Cincinnati restaurants recently have found a home in the city. Tano Bistro and the Casual Pint opened this summer at The Marcum, a newly built luxury apartment complex along Riverfront Plaza.

Last week, Fretboard Brewing and Looking Glass Hospitality Group announced they would open Fretboard Brewing & Public House at 103 Main St., possibly as soon as next month, bringing rooftop dining back to Hamilton.

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Hamilton City Manager Joshua Smith said the fact that Cafeo Hospitality Group chose Hamilton to open its newest location signals that the city is becoming “a regional destination.”

While city officials fielded inquiries from developers looking to add retail, offices and even medical services to the site, the its vision for 201 Main St. However, the city’s vision for the site was “always to recruit a full-service restaurant on the street level, and to reactivate the apartment units above,” according to Mallory Greenham, a small business development specialist with Hamilton’s Economic Development Department.

Restaurants are “absolutely imperative anchor tenants” to keep any downtown business district strong, bringing new people to the community and driving frequent and recurring foot traffic to commercial areas, which helps the entire district thrive, Greenham said.

Billy Yanks is expected to employ as many as 40 people, Cafeo said.

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“Additionally, we know that having a variety of quality food options is essential to continue the high demand Hamilton is currently experiencing for residential space downtown,” she said.

Cafeo said the group has “an appreciation for craft beer and classic comfort food with a unique spin.”

“Our goal is to provide a unique local community gathering place for the residents of Hamilton and the region as a whole,” he said.

While the new restaurant will specialize in burgers, it will offer “plenty of options” to suit individual taste and diets, he said.

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“We saw a need for a great spot for cocktails in the heart of the city and we are going to make Billy Yanks a culinary entertainment destination that goes beyond any one menu item,” Cafeo said.

Every venue Cafeo Hospitality Group operates is different.

“Location changes atmosphere, but we strive to make sure quality standards remain the same. Incline Public House offers tremendous views with a deep beer list and a diverse menu. Billy Yanks will also focus on creating a destination and a community gathering place like we’ve achieved with Incline.”

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