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Downtown Hays restaurant to close

By DAWNE LEIKER

dleiker@dailynews.net

A historic Hays restaurant will be closing its doors for the last time at midnight on New Year's Eve.

"It's been a good run," said Roy Herman, owner of Rooftops Restaurant & Lounge, located on the sixth floor of the Emprise Bank building. "I feel good about it.

"It's an icon that's going to get passed."

Owner of the restaurant for 7.5 years, Herman started his career with Rooftops 17 years ago. Working in the restaurant business since he was 13 when he washed dishes for Betty Froelich at Betty's Tee Box, Herman said his interest in cooking stems back to recipes shared with him by his grandmothers. Although he loves cooking, he said his heart no longer is in restaurant management.

"I'm not closing because I have to," he said. "I'm closing because I want to.

"I love it and I don't plan on quitting cooking. If I didn't have to do the rest, the food part makes it ... and it's killer."

Herman said he would like to continue in the culinary business, but just not as a restaurant owner. His future plans haven't fully taken shape yet, but might include fishing and spending time in Lawrence with his mom. He said he hopes to remain living in Hays.

It will be the first time the Emprise building has been without a restaurant since 1968, when it opened as the Heritage Club. In the 1980s, Norman Staab purchased the restaurant, changing its name to the Uptown Club. It was purchased in the early 1990s by Mark Werth and renamed Rooftops. Partners Jerry Staab, Louis Rios and Joe Conway purchased the restaurant from Werth. Rios later took over ownership, then sold the restaurant to Kenny Quan in 2001, Quan sold Rooftops to Herman in 2006.

"Hays is going to lose a historic famous restaurant," Herman said.

What will become of the sixth floor after Rooftops shuts its doors is unknown.

"We truly don't have anything in mind at this point," said Wayne Woofter, president of Emprise Bank. "Once the Rooftops tenant is out, then we would determine what we would do from there."

Woofter said the restaurant will be missed by other tenants of the building.

"I think everybody will be sad to see Rooftops leave," he said.

Herman said he notified staff members Nov. 1 of the impending closing of Rooftops.

"I wanted to make this the best two months we've ever had," Herman said. "And we're actually on a record-setting December.

"Everybody's supporting us ... using their gift certificates. They want to get their last prime rib."

Rooftops' 14 employees are being aided by the Kansas Workforce Center, Herman said, which is offering retraining should the employees choose to follow a new career path.

Many of his staff members also have a long history in the culinary industry. Manager Kristiana Molina has been with the staff for 13 years and said the restaurant's loyal customers and "amazing" family of employees have been two of the most important aspects of Rooftops.

"Many customers have been coming to Rooftops for years, and this place holds a special place in their hearts and their families," Molina said in an email. "Many memories have been made at Rooftops, and it breaks my heart that in a few days there will be no more memories made at Rooftops."