Payson's nightlife will get a significant boost early this summer, if a new Famous Sam's sports bar and restaurant opens as scheduled on the site of the old Payson Picture Show and Eastern Arizona College.
The 7,500-square-foot L-shaped establishment will feature a banquet room, pool tables, dart games, smoking and non-smoking dining areas, a bar, from six to eight big-screen televisions, and a seating capacity exceeding 175.
"We're hoping they're going to get in there and start demolitioning next week," said co-owner Shawn Sloan, whose partner is Payson Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise owner Roger Drew.
"We don't have the final plans and alcohol license approved yet, but everything else is in place and pretty much ready to go. Barring any unforeseen delays, we expect to open in late May or early June."
Famous Sam's, a Mesa-based franchise operation that opened its first restaurant in Tucson in 1963, currently has 34 restaurants in Arizona and two in Texas.
The Payson restaurant will be the largest of those stores, which average 5,000 to 6,000 square feet in size.
While Sloan is new to the franchise, Drew is not. He owns a couple of Famous Sam's in the state, Sloan said, as well as eight Arizona KFCs.
Sloan expects that one of Famous Sam's most appealing features will be its banquet room, which can be closed off for private parties or executive meetings and conferences, or opened up to accommodate overflow.
"There's a real need for a meeting place in Payson, and one of our goals is to fill that need," Sloan said.
"But more than that, what we really want to bring to Payson is a place that's fun to go to. There's not much to do here at night, but that will change on our opening day."
Sloan, currently the general manager of the Payson KFC, says he'll continue to oversee and supervise KFC while acting as manager-owner at Famous Sam's.
"From what I've been told by the health department, (the Payson KFC) is the only store in town that received 100 on its health inspection for the entire year of 1999," Sloan said. "That's the way I run my businesses. That's what you can expect at Famous Sam's.
"It will be the cleanest place -- besides KFC -- in this town. I guarantee it."