By Karen Abbott-Trimuel and Melanie Jongsma
LANSING, Ill. (May 27, 2022) – When the idea of opening a restaurant together occurred to five local friends, they knew they would do more than just a restaurant — they wanted an upscale atmosphere and live music and entertainment. Now, KYNGZ partners David Nathaniel, Anthony Pratt, Larry Williams, Roosevelt Walker, and Martin Granberry are poised to open such a venue in the Landings area of north Lansing.
The five are friends, some having had a long-lasting brotherhood since their early childhood days, and the opportunity to open an entertainment-oriented restaurant was too good to pass up. KYNGZ (pronounced “kings”) plans to go beyond the standard restaurant menu and offer its customers cuisine such as shrimp and grits, salmon croquettes, lobster, steak, lamb chops, filet mignon, and an extensive brunch menu.
Much in a name
The first line of business was to come up with a name they would be proud of, and Pratt was honored to be assigned that task. “I was chosen to come up with the name. I thought about elevation and came up with the name KYNGZ. Each letter represents a point of elevation. So, it is more of an acronym of powerful words and not just a name. As KYNGZ, we don’t just aim to get to a pinnacle. We aim to continue elevating beyond our dreams. There is only room for growth and constant elevation,” said Pratt.
KYNGZ stands for Keystone (central part of a system), Yahweh (God, Allah, Father Above), Nimbus (a halo of splendor), Genesis (the origin of something), and Zenith (the highest point).
Coming to Lansing
Some of the five are new to the restaurant business. Still, their resumes are vast, and they have an array of experience as college graduates, veterans, successful business owners, property investors and managers, and corporate leaders.
Their KYNGZ journey began in mid-2021 when they leased the space at 16731 Torrence Avenue, which used to house Old Country Buffet. “We chose Lansing because of the opportunity, the space, location, and the room to grow,” stated Nathaniel.
Lansing officials ask questions
On Wednesday, April 13, Pratt stood before the Lansing Planning and Zoning Board, making a Special Use Request to incorporate live entertainment into the restaurant. The Planning and Zoning Board expressed concerns about the late closing hours (2 a.m. on Thursday through Saturday) and the plans to close from 5–7 p.m. when families usually dine. Commissioners also asked questions about security. After receiving more information, the Planning and Zoning Board voted unanimously to recommend KYNGZ restaurant’s special use request be approved.
On Tuesday, May 3, Pratt stood before the Lansing Board of Trustees to present his business plan in the hope of receiving Village Board approval for the special use. Trustees raised many of the same questions the Planning and Zoning Board had.
Pratt explained that he and his partners had adjusted their plans after hearing the concerns of the Planning and Zoning Board. They adjusted opening hours to 10 a.m. instead of 7 a.m. and changed the shutdown time to 3–4 p.m. instead of 5–7 p.m.
Though Pratt’s amended changes were verbally presented, the Board expressed a desire to see the changes formalized in writing, as the plan Pratt shared differed from the document they had in front of them. Pratt agreed to provide the Trustees with the more current version of his business plan, which he had updated following the Planning and Zoning meeting.
Dining and entertaining for good
The KYNGZ partners are not only businessmen. They are also involved in nonprofit organizations that help feed and deliver resources to homeless people, facilitate youth community clean-up programs, provide shelter for battered women, and help families through back-to-school programs. They’ve also helped provide housing assistance to low-income families.
“We also plan to utilize our restaurant to give back to the community by coordinating back-to-school drives and programs that will assist those less fortunate and participate in programs offered by the Village of Lansing where we can be of assistance and service. Our goal is to become an intricate part of Lansing,” said Nathaniel.
Williams said, “We all came from humble beginnings where we didn’t have much, so we understand what it means to do without the bare necessities. That’s what makes it important for us to do our part and share with those that are less fortunate because we were them, and we lived that.”
The partners of KYNGZ expressed that they are coming to the Landings to enhance Lansing, draw other businesses to the area, and provide more jobs. The partners said that it’s essential to their vision that they set an example for people who look like them. They want the community to know that committed people can build something from the ground up — even during a pandemic — and become people of strength.
KYNGZ hopes to be more than a restaurant. It wants to be a community within a community — a place where people can sit down and enjoy a good meal in a courteous and attentive environment.
“We want the opportunity to become a part of the Lansing family,” said Walker.
The KYNGZ partners said they are looking forward to working with the Village of Lansing to ensure the Village is comfortable with their business plan, even if it means adjusting their weekend closing time.
Pratt anticipated being on the May 24 board meeting agenda, however he was informed via email the preceding Friday that “the KYNGZ special use request will not appear on the Committee of the Whole agenda next Tuesday.”
Pratt and several of his partners attended the May 24 meeting, and he spoke during public comment. He mentioned that Trustees Saad Abbasy and Leo Valencia had visited the KYNGZ establishment on May 17 and had asked if there would be a lot of “poppin’ bottles” in the VIP area of the restaurant. “That’s stereotypical,” he told the board. In a conversation after the meeting Pratt explained that “poppin’ bottles” is a slang term often used in rap music, and he believed the trustees were making assumptions about him as a Black man and about the music and potential patrons his restaurant would serve.
“It’s a shame,” Pratt said during his public comment. “You go to the military and serve your country for eight years of your life. You come home and obtain four college degrees and be the exact opposite of what the media portray you to be, only to be told that you’re not.”
However, Trustee Abbasy expressed surprise at Pratt’s characterization of their interaction. “The intent was not to use any derogatory overtones of that term, ‘poppin’ bottles,'” he said the next day. “While visiting the establishment, I was shown a VIP area where tableside bottle service was discussed. I was envisioning the kind of club/bar you might go to downtown, where champagne or other bottles of alcohol are brought to your table by a server, and the bottles are popped, literally. I wanted clarity as to whether the VIP area would have that type of atmosphere, which is not in line with what I would envision for a family type restaurant and not what I would be in favor of in Lansing.”
Abbasy explained that visiting KYNGZ was a matter of “due diligence” before the upcoming meeting. “I asked questions, got clarity, and moved on,” he said.
Though KYNGZ was not on the May 24 agenda, Abbasy clarified that this does not mean the proposal is dead. “It just means it wasn’t ready for a vote yet,” he explained. “Delays like this are not uncommon, and they happen for a variety of reasons. At this point, there’s been no decision about KYNGZ, so the story is not over.”