Tolly Go: Popular restaurant to relocate

By Patrick Sullivan

Tolly Ho, a popular campus restaurant, will move to a new location two blocks away in early 2011, the establishment’s marketing team confirmed Tuesday.

The restaurant’s owner purchased the Hart’s Dry Cleaning building on South Broadway and will move there during the first quarter of next year, said consultant Kathleen Martin with RocketComm Marketing.

“It was the perfect alignment of things,” Martin said. “We were looking for a location where we could plant lifelong roots.”

The new location will allow for ample parking and even curbside service, something Martin dubbed “HO2GO.” The move ensures the restaurant’s position in the community for decades, Martin said.

To commemorate the move, Tolly Ho will sell personalized bricks and build them into the new location. Bricks will be $500 for students; owners are still working on pricing for non-students. Student brick purchasers also will receive a $250 gift card to the restaurant.

“People can now be a permanent part of the Ho,” Martin said.

The brick marketing campaign fits because Tolly Ho has been part of the foundation of UK’s college scene. Students have flocked to the restaurant since its inception in 1971. Out-the-door lines frequently stretch into the parking lot in the early hours of the morning. First time Ho-goers are frequently met with abrupt and loud cheers. The hamburgers even reached national fame; former vice president Al Gore mentioned them in a 1996 campaign speech.

“It’s a place where someone in their pajamas can hang out with a person in a shirt and tie,” Martin said. “You have people who are getting breakfast and people who are sobering up from the night before.”

Details of the restaurant’s move put rumors of a rivalry with the adjacent Hugh Jass Burgers to rest. Many had speculated that Hugh Jass owner David Toole bought the building that Tolly Ho and Hugh Jass shared and would not renew Tolly Ho’s lease. Toole did not buy the building.

“We’re not trying to kick them out,” Toole said. “They can stay if they want to stay and move if they want to move.”

Tolly Ho owner Roy Milling has been thinking about the move for a long time, Martin said. The restaurant didn’t move because of new competition, but because of new opportunity.

“People assumed Hugh Jass was huge competition for us,” Martin said. “That wasn’t the case.”

Tolly Ho’s relocation is not its first. In 1985, the restaurant could not strike a deal for a new lease and closed at 108 W. Euclid Ave. Two years later, Tolly Ho reopened at its current location at 395 S. Limestone St.

“The Ho has been around for almost 40 years and has grown as the community has grown,” Martin said. “We’ll be a permanent part of Lexington’s landscape.”