Two new La Crosse restaurants — Lovechild and Senor Villa — are in the works, in the former Hooters restaurant at 300 S. Third St. downtown, and in the former Jade Cafe at 325 West Ave. N.

Jay Sparks and Joan Ferris, who both spent two decades with the D’Amico & Partners family of restaurants in the Twin Cities and in Naples, Fla., have applied to the city for a conditional-use permit for their Lovechild casual fine dining restaurant and bar. It’s planned in the former Hooters, which closed in 2014.

Lovechild will be “an eclectic mix and very personal melding of all the things we really love,” Ferris told me last week.

Sparks served for nearly 20 years (until 2014) as executive chef for D’Amico’s full-service restaurant division and was one of the most influential chefs on the Twin Cities restaurant scene, according to a letter accompanying the application.

Ferris joined D’Amico in 1991 as general manager of the acclaimed French Mediterranean restaurant Azur in Minneapolis, then went on to hold various corporate management positions with D’Amico, the letter said.

“We’re opening in early fall if all goes well,” Ferris told me. She and Sparks will move to La Crosse in June.

“Minneapolis just opened a ton of new places and they don’t really need anymore,” Ferris said. “La Crosse, on the other hand, is blowing up right now, and it couldn’t be a better time or place to open a restaurant. And there’s room for many more.”

Ferris, a La Crosse native, said she and Sparks love the city and visit often. Her father, Roger Ferris, had a shoe repair shop on Main Street for many years.

A native of Mexico plans to open Señor Villa restaurant around Aug. 1 in the former Jade Cafe at 325 West Ave. N., which closed in 2013.

Mario Villasenor, a native of Mexico, and his Roma Restaurant LLC have asked the La Crosse Common Council for permission to apply for a beer and liquor license for Señor Villa.

He describes it as a full-service family Mexican restaurant.

The decor will be elegant and subdued, in order to avoid creating a “party” atmosphere typical of many Mexican restaurants, his lawyer said in a letter accompanying the application.

The restaurant is expected to seat about 110 customers and open with nine to 10 employees.

“La Crosse is a very good place,” Villasenor told me last week. “I think I can do a great job there.“

He and his family plan to move this summer to La Crosse from Eau Claire, where Villasenor had nine years of experience as a partner and manager at Cancun Mexican Grill on Clairemont Avenue. He’s no longer a partner at Cancun.

Todd and Jennifer Wiedenhaft have expanded their Lost Island Wine business at 570 Theater Road in Onalaska to include a Skeleton Crew Brew microbrewery. The latter’s grand opening will be from noon to 9 p.m. Saturday, with live music by Irene Keenan Jr. from 5 to 8 p.m.

The microbrewery’s first four brews — Arrrg Ale, Abandon Ship IPA, Hempen Halter and Red Beard — will make their debut that day. More varieties will appear in the coming weeks. Also making its debut Saturday is the Wiedenhafts’ new Sandbar Cider line of hard cider.

“Our beer will only be available on premise although we are in conversations with a couple bar/restaurants where we may have our beers on tap,” Todd said. Hours will be the same as for the winery, which opened in 2012. They are 4 to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; noon to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

The Wiedenhafts also sell beer- and wine-making supplies and offer classes in making both. For more information, visit,, or Facebook.

Hillsboro Brewing Co. will hold a grand opening from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday at its new brewery at 1001 Water Ave. in downtown Hillsboro, Wis.

Owners Snapper and Kim Verbsky opened their Hillsboro Brewing Co. brewpub in 2013 at 815 Water Ave., where they sell their beers and food. They opened their own brewery last October in a renovated building, and no longer contract with another brewery to make their beers.

Although it makes many more kinds, Hillsboro Brewing has two flagship brews, Hillsboro Pale Ale and Joe Beer. The latter is named after Snapper’s father, Joe Verbsky, who perfected the recipe shortly before he died in a 2012 car accident.

The new brewery will be open periodically for tours and sampling; for dates, check or Hillsboro Brewing’s Facebook page. The brewpub’s hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. or later Tuesday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday; and closed Monday.

Hillsboro Brewing’s beer is served on tap at its brewpub and other bars and restaurants in the region, and the Verbskys plan to eventually bottle it. For a list of places that carry the beer, visit Hillsboro Brewing’s Facebook page.

The owners of Fowler & Hammer Inc. general contractor at 313 Monitor St. are expected to complete their purchase of the nearby former PACAL Industries property at 400 Car St. on Friday.

The PACAL plant closed last summer and the property is owned by the La Crosse Industrial Park Corp. LIPCO is a nonprofit development partnership between the city of La Crosse, Xcel Energy and the La Crosse Area Development Corp.

The La Crosse Common Council approved the $970,000 sale of the property at its May 12 meeting. LADCO Executive Director James Hill told the council’s Finance and Personnel Committee that the property probably will have multiple uses. Fowler & Hammer will use part of it, but other parts will be available for use by other businesses, he said last week.

Steve Cahalan can be reached at or at 608-782-9710, ext. 8819.