Lebanon couple hopes to restore one-popular diner

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A Lebanon couple is investing a quarter of a million dollars to restore a once-popular diner.

The Lebanon Sugar Bowl is set to reopen in time for Christmas. Once known as the Zaharako Sugar Bowl, the diner was open for 19 years from 1948-1967 but had to close when its owner, Gus, died. Now, a new family is hoping to bring the diner back to its former glory.

“(The Zaharako family) was just (like) family and everybody knew them like they were our family,” Judy Walburn said.

Walburn is the vice president of the Boone County Historical Society in Lebanon.

“That was the place to go after school in Lebanon,” Walburn said.

John Staton remembers hanging out at the Sugar Bowl when he was younger. He recently moved back to Lebanon with his wife, Leslie.

“We’ve been married almost 17 years and John has talked about the Sugar Bowl ever since we’ve been married,” Leslie Staton said.

The couple bought the vacant building at the end of May and they have been working on restoring it since June.

The popular restaurant was known for many things like its candy, peanuts, popcorn, homemade ice cream and soda fountain. The Staton’s plan is to bring back as much possible. They said the new Sugar Bowl will have a retro-modern look to it. When you walk inside, it will be reversed from the original diner. The booths will be on the opposite side of where they used to be located.

“Anybody who grew up in that era, you know, during that era, came here,” John Staton said.

When the Sugar Bowl reopens, the Staton’s want to make sure it comes out right. The couple received a facade grant. The city issued downtown businesses facade grants in order to improve the exterior of those buildings. Some people believe by reopening the Sugar Bowl, it will help revive downtown Lebanon and attract more businesses to the city.

“I’m very hopeful it goes over well and stays in Lebanon ’cause we really need something like that on the square,” Walburn said. “It would be really fun and interesting to see if the school kids would do the same as we did and they would take advantage of the Sugar Bowl.”

Walburn would like to see more businesses downtown as well.

“It would be wonderful to have all the stores occupied like they were back in the ’50’s, lie it used to be when I was young. You would come to town and sit on the wall around the courthouse square and watch people shop,” Walburn said.

Walburn said they have too many vacant buildings.

“Today, with so many vacant buildings, it’s not very appealing. It would be wonderful to get some buildings occupied, if not all of them,” Walburn said.

Jeremy Lamar is the president of the Lebanon city council. He is also a partner with his father of Lamar & Lamar Insurance.

“I think it’s nice to have a different spice downtown, an extra draw to give people that opportunity to come down and check it out,” Jeremy Lamar said.

Staton hopes the Lebanon Sugar Bowl will spark new businesses to move to Lebanon too.

“We really want it to be a place for people want to come back, and come back, and come back,” Staton said.

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