Pizza franchise on the menu for shuttered Big Al’s space

Chicago’s Pizza With A Twist is taking over the Big Al’s Sports Bar ad Grill space at 3641 Cox Road, Unit F near Innsbrook. (J. Elias O’Neal)

The closure of a Henrico County sports bar is opening the door for a pair of first-time restaurateurs to roll out a new-to-market pizza franchise.

Prashant and Preeti Pawar plan to open Chicago’s Pizza With A Twist in the space formerly occupied by Big Al’s Sports Bar & Grill at 3641 Cox Road, Unit F, near Innsbrook.

Big Al’s closed at the end of service Thursday after 11 years of business.

Al Coleman, a nearly 30-year Richmond sports radio personality, launched the establishment in October 2007.

Coleman, 63, said he will miss his customers but not the long restaurant hours, which he said took a toll coupled with his morning show Sportsphone with Big Al on Sports 106.1 FM.

“I’d start my day at 4:45 in the morning at the radio station and I wouldn’t get home until around 7 at night from the restaurant,” Coleman said. ‘It was exhausting work, and it was time for a change…11 years in the restaurant business is a lifetime.”

Coleman placed the 2,900-square-foot restaurant up for sale last fall and began discussions with the Pawars around October. The parties came to an agreement this month for the Pawars to lease the space and purchase the restaurant’s equipment.

Nathan Hughes with Richmond-based Sperity Real Estate Ventures brokered the transaction, terms of which were not disclosed.

Aloo Chaat Pizza. (Courtesy Chicago’s Pizza With A Twist)

Based in California, Chicago’s Pizza With A Twist takes Chicago-style deep-dish pizza and packs it with international flavors of Indian and Latin origins. Some of its signature pies include curry chicken, butter chicken and naan pizzas.

The company operates several locations across California and is beginning to branch out into new markets in Virginia, New York and Washington. The local franchise will be the chain’s first in metro Richmond and second in Virginia after a location in Ashburn.

The Pawars plan to invest about $400,000 in the venture, includes securing the franchise rights. Plans call for the space to be overhauled, with upgrades to the bar and equipment, Prashant said.

‘It’s going to be a place where you can grab a beer, or eat a pizza, or do both,” Prashant said.

“We were visiting some friends in California when we first tried the pizza. We’re big foodies, so after we tried the pizza, we knew that we had to bring the concept to Richmond.”

The restaurant will be managed full-time by Preeti, who has a doctorate in food science and research.

“We’ve been searching for a restaurant for about four years,” Prashant said. “We didn’t want it to be something that was already done. We wanted it to be something different.”

Aside from pizza, the location will serve beer and wine and offer a bar food menu that’s under development. The restaurant can seat 98 people inside and about 25 on the patio.

The couple is exploring catering options, but Prashant said that decision will be determined after their first year in business. The restaurant is slated to open in late January and is hiring for about 15 staff jobs.

Hours of operation will be 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The restaurant will include dine-in, carry-out and delivery within a 7-mile radius.

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