The Bloomington Historical Preservation Commission voted Thursday evening not to make The Chocolate Moose, located at 401 S. Walnut St., a historical landmark. Thus, the building will be demolished to make way for a four-story building.
The Chocolate Moose would reopen in the new space, Justin Loveless, owner and operator of the Chocolate Moose, said.
However, there is controversy around the development. The Chocolate Moose, which was previously known as the Penguin, was built in the 1950s and reopened in 1983, could be considered historic based on the building’s history in the town.
Loveless rents the building from landowner Doran May, who opened the Penguin.
Despite the iconic location, past operational challenges with the building forced Loveless to consider alternate locations for the business, he said in a letter to the Bloomington Historic Preservation Commission.
“This building, to be honest, is falling apart,” May said. “It’s served its purpose and it’s done well, but its time has come.”
Loveless said he is in support of the development.
“The moose isn’t going anywhere,” Loveless said. “We’ll be part of the new space. I’m in support.”
Construction would take place from December 2016 to April 2017, during the time the Chocolate Moose is already closed for winter, Loveless said.
Cailey Doering, 20, has lived in Bloomington her entire life and worked at the store for three years. She said she is torn because she loves the Chocolate Moose, but understands why they want to develop the land.
Doering said many customers have had a strong reaction to the news.
“We’ve had a lot of people call in today asking if it’s really happening or not,” Doering said. “A lot of people I’ve talked to are really shocked.”
Ariel Adams said she has only lived in Bloomington for one and a half years, but she has seen how much the Chocolate Moose means to everyone who lives here, and she said it makes her sad to possibly see development happen.
Bloomington resident Jessica Giem said she thinks knocking down the building is unacceptable.
“No, no, no, no, no, no, no,” Giem said. “That’s not allowed. They can’t do that.”
Giem said this upsets her because the Chocolate Moose makes her life better on bad days, and said they have the best ice cream she has ever tasted.
Relocation of Chocolate Moose in the new building would be acceptable to Giem as long as there was no disruption in service, she said.
Tyler Reeves, a manager at Chocolate Moose, has worked at the business since 2009 and has a picture of the restaurant tattooed on the back of his left calf last year.
Reeves said he had joked about getting the tattoo for years with his boss, Loveless. Reeves finally went through with it when Chocolate Moose partnered with Evil By the Needle for an event and was offered a discounted price. He said he wanted to get the Chocolate Moose tattoo because the business has been a big part of his life.
“The construction is kind of crazy,” Reeves said. “I didn’t expect it to happen.”
Nevertheless, Reeves and Loveless said customers should know it’s not the end for the Chocolate Moose.
“Regardless of whether the building changes, I think the biggest thing people are in support of is they want to go to the Chocolate Moose and get Chocolate Moose ice cream,” Loveless said.