By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (December 14, 2015) — There is a new steakhouse coming to Stephenville.
In an unprecedented step in economic development for the City of Stephenville, city council unanimously approved a 10-year tax abatement plan worth almost $150,000 in rebates to partners in ownership of Hoffbrau Steaks, which currently has locations in Fort Worth and Granbury.
After just more than an hour of discussion, council voted unanimously to approve the Hoffbrau group’s request for the abatement with funds from the Stephenville Economic Development Authority.
The Hoffbrau group will receive a 90 percent refund on local sales taxes its first year in business, and the refund will drop 10 percent each year until receiving 10 percent back in its ninth year. Hoffbrau gets a 5 percent refund its 10th and final year of business. The rebate is capped at $2.2 million in annual sales – worth approximately $27,000 in local sales taxes – at the new steakhouse, which is not yet named.
“We’re only about three weeks into our rebranding process,” Hoffbrau representative Aron Fogiel told The Flash following the meeting. “We’re still working on the name, but we will be sure to let everyone know as soon as possible.”
The Hoffbrau group has also explored opening a restaurant in Roanoke, closer to Fort Worth, a fact that brought urgency out of Stephenville Mayor Pro Tem Russ McDanel.
After some councilmen seemed set on tabling the matter until January for further consideration, McDanel was adamant that Stephenville move quickly and not lose out on the new business.
“It sounds like the will to do this is here, but I’m afraid if we wait until January these guys will already have a deal worked out with Roanoke,” said McDanel, who ultimately made the motion for approval.
Alan Nix seconded the motion after an amendment to clarify wording to be sure the funds would come from Stephenville Economic Development Authority and not the city’s general operations fund.
Hoffbrau President and Chief Operations Officer Paul Ellis explained to the council their reason for coming to Stephenville.
“We needed to find communities that match our values and how we do business. That’s how we got to Granbury,” said Ellis. “We looked at this same building several years ago and just couldn’t get a deal. We’ve been looking at Stephenville for a long time. To us, this is a no brainer.
“We don’t believe we are competition for other restaurants, and we believe we can bring value to Stephenville,” Ellis continued. “We’d like to be your ‘Cheers,’ not just to a certain demographic, but to everyone.”
Hoffbrau plans to enlarge the capacity of the old Fiddle Creek building, adding garden-style seating complete with trees and more. Multiple council members were pleased to hear this, noting the increase in valuation of the property will off-set some of the sales tax rebate.
Mayor Kenny Weldon told council that a meeting with SEDA officials is needed to better outline how to progress through such measures in the future. Typically, he said, SEDA would hear the proposal from a group such as Hoffbrau Steaks, then would make a recommendation to the council.
“The way the current economic policy is written it comes directly before the council,” explained city administrator Pat Bridges. “We have to go back in and make it so in the future it goes before SEDA then before the council.”
This is also an unprecedented move for Hoffbrau Steaks owners.
“We’ve never purchased property before this,” said Fogiel. “We are looking to get more into that because it’s easier when you are your own landlord. We think this is a good deal for us and we’ve been excited a long time about the possibility of coming to Stephenville.”
The property is currently owned by Gale Warren, but Fogiel told the council he believes after three years in a lease-to-own agreement that the price would be right for the Hoffbrau agreement to move forward with purchasing the property.
“We want to be a long term partner with the City of Stephenville,” Fogiel emphasized. “We want still be here in 20 years, 25 years, and be a positive part of the community.”