Lockdown Bar & Grill, the prison-themed dive that specializes in burgers, will close next month after the owner unsuccessfully tried to sell the business. Owner PJ Zonis said he needs the break after nine years of running the restaurant. March 1 will be the last day of service at 1024 N. Western Avenue.
Lockdown opened in 2010 with big burgers with names like “Arson” and “Hawaii 5.0” while playing loud metal on the sound system. It was easy to compare it to Kuma’s Corner, which opened four years before and was still crowded with customers in Avondale. Lockdown was decorated with subversive art and graffiti. It was supposed to remind customers of a prison.
If anyone is interested in saving the restaurant, Zonis invites investors with ideas to contact him. In recent times, the restaurant had hosted more live music. They don’t charge a cover, so the restaurant didn’t require a public place of amusement license. But perhaps a new operator could explore that avenue, Zonis said. Meanwhile, he’s thinking about a trip to Tennessee to check out the Blues scenes in Nashville and Memphis.
“I’m older, it’s time to fucking do something else,” Zonis said. “I am generally through being locked down.”
Zonis said he didn’t rehearse that very on-brand line. He said it just came naturally during the course of the interview. Staff was informed a few weeks ago about the shutter. In 2017 they added barbecue to the menu. The barbecue operation was separate but eventually folded into Lockdown’s regular offerings. That’s closing, too.
They’re not planning to do anything special for the closing. Zonis said they’ll just hang out and party as normal. Also, don’t downplay the role of the polar vortex in the shutter.
“The whole winter has bummed me out,” Zonis said.
Apparently, the grueling business of running a restaurant can sometimes feel like a prison sentence. Zonis felt that was his signal to shut down his burger spot across the street from the Empty Bottle music venue and bar. And with that, fans have eight days to make one final visitation.