The new owners of the Oak Tree Restaurant and Casino say they’re close to reopening at least part of the Woodland institution.
The plan is to reopen the restaurant and then continue work on the casino while the ownership group gets state liquor and gambling licenses, said Portland lawyer Wally Fitzwater, who is representing the Portland businessmen buying the place. If all goes well, the restaurant will open sometime after April 15, he said late last week.
The restaurant, just off Interstate 5 at Exit 21, has been a local landmark and convenient stopover among highway travelers for nearly 50 years. A casino was added in December 2011 to boost revenue but failed to realize the manager’s and city’s expectations. The entire established closed abruptly on Christmas Eve, leaving employees and creditors unpaid.
Renovation work has begun in the restaurant, and potential employees are being interviewed. A few people already have been hired, Fitzwater said. The group hopes to hire back many of the former Oak Tree employees, Fitzwater said, but he did not know how many employees ultimately will be needed. (Applications are being accepted at: http://websd-oaktree-lucky21com.webs.com/oaktree-restaurant).
The restaurant will keep its long-held name, Fitzwater said.
“We’re going to try to keep the best of the Oak Tree, and one of those things is the name, the place that people traveling up and down I-5 can recognize,” he said.
The casino will be renamed to the Lucky 21 Casino, a play off its I-5 exit number as well as card games. The group purchasing it also is named the Lucky 21 Casino LLC.
Fitzwater didn’t have specifics, but said the group is making a “substantial” investment in the building. He said they were drawn to the location and history of the building.
While the building is being purchased, the new Lucky 21 group is not buying the former business and will not be liable for its debts. The previous owner could not be reached for comment.