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NASCAR driver putting name on local restaurant

By Mark Wineka
Salisbury Post
Rising NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin will be lending his name and star power to one of Salisbury’s more popular restaurants.
In coming months, The Original Steakhouse & Sports Theatre, located at the Salisbury Mall, will be changing its name and look to become Denny Hamlin’s Grille 11.
The “11” refers to Hamlin’s number for Joe Gibbs Racing.
The extensive changes to the restaurant will be made through a licensing agreement between Celebrity Ventures Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Hamlin, who is currently sixth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings.
Bob McCarthy, a partner and concept development vice president for Celebrity Ventures, said Hamlin will have his own private “owner’s box” at the restaurant and can be expected to be making visits to the Salisbury location and a like-named restaurant in Asheville.
Hamlin already has been to the Salisbury restaurant, McCarthy said.
Celebrity Ventures has done similar sports-themed restaurants with other athletes, including former National Football League stars Eddie George and Jerome Bettis. It also has worked with Major League Baseball player Jeff Conine and NBA stars Alonzo Mourning and Shaquille O’Neal.
This is Celebrity Ventures’ first restaurant with a NASCAR driver.
The restaurant concepts always employ the sports personality’s number in the name.
Eddie George’s Grille 27 is located in Nashville, Tenn., and Columbus, Ohio; Jerome Bettis’ Grille 36, in Pittsburgh.
McCarthy put the transformation of the restaurant in Salisbury at 90 to 120 days.
He said the restaurant’s footprint will stay the same, but its audio-visual package will be enhanced dramatically, besides some cosmetic changes.
The Eddie George and Jerome Bettis restaurants are described as “food-focused,” sports-themed and aimed at offering a high-quality dining experience, and that’s what customers in Salisbury can expect from Denny Hamlin’s Grille 11, according to McCarthy.
According to their Web sites, the restaurants in Columbus and Pittsburgh each have more than 50 televisions and state-of-the-art sound systems.
The extensive menus offer appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, salads, pasta, steak, seafood and desserts.
McCarthy compared the food fare to a Cheesecake Factory.
Hamlin, 27, is from Chesterfield, Va. He most recently led much of Sprint Cup race in Richmond, Va., last weekend, only to have bad luck in the end. He won the Nationwide Series’ Lipton Tea 250 Friday night.
He was the Nextel Cup’s rookie of the year in 2005.
The Original Steakhouse & Sports Theatre, which already features numerous televisions and large projection screens, opened at the mall in October 2003.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or mwineka@salisburypost.com.

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