Restaurateur Kevin George hopes to make the 20th floor of Founders Tower an Oklahoma City date night destination once again.
George has plans to transform the long-vacant 9,500-square-foot rotating restaurant space into a yet-to-be-named 200-seat steakhouse.
A restaurant industry veteran, George started his career by busing tables in college, eventually working his way up to becoming a partner in Interurban Restaurants.
It's always been his dream to open a restaurant like the one he envisions at the top of Founders Tower.
“I've kind of been working toward this for the past 20 years,” George said.
There's not much to look at now on the 20th floor except the view. The restaurant space is dark and has been gutted. Limited elevator space means that George might even have to hoist some of the larger pieces of equipment up through the windows.
But he sees potential there.
“It's just a beautiful space and it's got the best view in Oklahoma City,” George said.
Although the restaurant's rotating track — powered by 10 motors hidden under the floorboards — is still functional, George said he doesn't plan to use it much.
There's just not enough room on the narrow track for a table large enough to accommodate comfortably four diners at once, he said.
Instead, the new steakhouse plans call for large booths facing the windows to make the most of the space's expansive views, George said.
George plans for the venue to be open for lunch and dinner and also to have a full bar. He also hopes to take to-go orders for Founders Tower condominium residents who inhabit the lower floors of the building at 5900 Mosteller Drive.
The tower also will have a dedicated express elevator that will service restaurant patrons.
Vacant since 2007, the restaurant space at the top of the midcentury residential tower is one of a handful of surviving rotating restaurant spaces in the United States that is still operational, said Paul Cornell, a member of the Tulsa-based Kelley family ownership group that holds Founders Tower.
The restaurant space has been vacant since 2007 when Nikz at the Top closed its doors, while the property was undergoing a renovation from office space to condominiums. Oklahoma City-based Deep Fork Group had plans to turn the place into a catering venue and lounge with a limited menu in 2011, but the plans never moved forward. Deep Fork had intended to revive the venue's original name from when the tower first opened in 1963 — The Chandelle Room.
The Chandelle Room plans stalled and never moved past the planning stages, Cornell said.
Although the residential units at the Founders Tower are 100 percent occupied with a waiting list today, the restaurant space has remained vacant for so long in part because the owners were waiting for the right operator with the right concept to come along, Cornell said.
“We didn't want somebody who was just stepping out for the first time — we wanted someone with a proven track record of success for operating a good restaurant for years,” he said.