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Lincoln Shopko among locations closing

Shopko is the latest retailer to announce a store closing in Lincoln.

The Green Bay, Wisconsin-based company Wednesday announced plans to close 39 stores across the country, including its location at 3400 N. 27th St. in Lincoln.

The other 38 stores closing are smaller-format Shopko Hometown stores, including locations in Kimball and Ord.

Liquidation sales are scheduled to start Friday, with the stores set to close at the end of February.

Shopko has closed a number of stores over the past few years, including several locations in Nebraska. It closed two Omaha-area locations in 2016 and another last year. The Shopko Hometown store in Crete closed at the end of June, and stores in Ogallala and Gordon are scheduled to close later this month.

"Despite all of the stores' efforts, as we reviewed the long-term outlook on profitability, sales trends, and potential growth, we came to the difficult decision that it was necessary to close these stores," said company spokeswoman Michelle Hansen.

The Lincoln Shopko closing announcement comes on the heels of news that Gap will close its only Lincoln store Jan. 28. Other large retailers who have closed stores in Lincoln this year include Toys 'R' Us and Younkers.

Lincoln has three other Shopko stores: at 66th and O streets, 27th Street and Nebraska 2, and 27th Street and Pine Lake Road. The company has been advertising a portion of the 27th and Pine Lake store for lease for more than a year.

Journal Star file photo  

Scott Mercer (left) was helped by Bob Scura and Kurt Cameron of Grand American Fare chain in assembling décor for P.O. Pears, popular with college students in the 1980s and '90s. It closed in 2008.

Journal Star file photo  

Chef Dennis Barratt (from left), assistant Lewis Prue and manager Dave Harrison at Tony and Luigi’s in a 1982 photo. The restaurant was founded in 1945 and grossed $6.50 on its first day. It closed in 1993.

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'Lost Restaurants of Lincoln, Nebraska': A dining critic takes on the delicious past

For nearly 20 years, I listened to Jeff Korbelik dish about food.

I listened as he called restaurant owners to discuss their menus — and the meals he’d sampled undercover as the Journal Star’s dining critic.

I listened while regular readers and curious out-of-towners called him looking for recommendations. A nice steak after the football game? (Misty’s). Local fare in the Haymarket? (Bread & Cup). Indian food? (The Oven). A romantic dinner for two? (Billy’s or Dish).

He always had the answers.

Now he has a book. And you should listen to me and buy “Lost Restaurants of Lincoln, Nebraska.”

Although you won’t be able to sit down in front of a plate of Arturo’s tachas or bite into a King’s Food Host burger, you’ll wish you still could.

And you’ll almost feel like you had.

My longtime colleague and podmate left the paper last year to pour (and order) wine at James Arthur Vineyards, but before he did, he pored over dozens of newspaper clippings and worked the phones and his charm to talk to former restaurant owners about life in the food business.

He didn’t want the book to be a recitation of opening dates and locations, said Jeff — Korb to his friends.

“I wanted to tell stories.”

Plenty of locals know about Kay’s Restaurant, he said. “But not that many know 'Terms of Endearment' was filmed there.”

He divvied up the book into two sections. Restaurants and supper clubs to start, followed by cafés, diners and drive-ins.

He included the long-gone Esquire Club, where I had a brief stint as a salad girl, and the recently closed Maggie’s Vegetarian Wraps, where I had a longstanding weekly lunch date.

He shared recipes — soup from The Steak House, apple fritters from Alice’s, the Drumstick's fried chicken — and he told some tales.

Of Legion Club diners on top of tables cheering Tom Osborne (and Bob Devaney before him) after championship games.

Of celebrity sightings at Tony and Luigi’s, the quilt at Crane River, and Herb, the waiter extraordinaire, at the Rotisserie.

Jeff started at the paper in 1996, writing about sports and eventually making his way to features and food (theater and local media and television).

His first dining out review? Cracker Barrel. His last? TBD. (He continues to write an occasional Dining Out column for Ground Zero, the Journal Star's weekly entertainment guide.)

He wrote about restaurants nearly every week; even after he was promoted to features editor. He wrote fast and he wrote well.

People loved reading about food.

This book is the best of Jeff.

When Arcadia Publishing contacted him in the spring of 2017, wondering who would be best-suited to write a restaurant memory book for the city, he said that would be him, but he was too busy and he’d get back to them.

He didn’t.

Instead, he “hemmed and hawed“ for two months until his regular dining companion and wife, Rebecca Carr, convinced him to give it a whirl. (Lincoln historian and author Jim McKee, who assisted with old photos and a sharp memory, also played a role, telling the reporter: “Everyone has one book in them.”)

After he acquiesced, the reporter had six months to come up with 32,000 words, 32 restaurants, and enough old photos to conjure up the past.

He took out his tape recorder and rolled out his Rolodex and got busy. He met with the son and nephew of Tony and Luigi’s owner Tony Alesio. “I put a tape recorder between them and let them talk.” (The back and forth between Mike Alesio and Tony Messineo alone is worth the price of the book.)

He ate Miller & Paine cinnamon rolls with Bob Campbell while they chatted about the Tea Room at the iconic Lincoln department store.

He sussed out stories from long-retired cooks and quotes from decades-old newspapers. (How did the Acme Chili Parlor serve its spicy chili? With a side of vinegar to cut the grease and a pitcher of water to cool the palate.)

The book will make your stomach growl.

For me, it evoked long-forgotten meals at long-forgotten places. The Lincoln Underground, where my parents would take us for birthday dinners in the 1970s, with waiters appearing tableside with flaming baked Alaska. Drives across town for tubs of onion chips and dip at Tastee and chocolate ambrosia pie at Bishop Buffet.

Jeff, the food guy-journalist-turned author, made the work of compiling such a daunting culinary history look easy, and he made the restaurants that made us food and made us memories come alive.

I ate it up.

See photos of "lost restaurants" of Lincoln:

Lost restaurants of Lincoln

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Man gets prison in sex assault of 8-year-old

Calling the crime a parent's worst nightmare, a judge sent a 23-year-old Lincoln man to prison for 89 to 99 years Wednesday for snatching an 8-year-old girl from her bed as she slept, tying her up and sexually assaulting her.

"Forgive me if I don't put a lot of faith in anything other than locking you up for as long as I can to protect every other little girl in this community from you until you're unable ... to be in a position to assault anyone ever again," Lancaster County District Judge Lori Maret told Cody Riddle.

Riddle, who faced 20 years to life in prison for first-degree sexual assault of a child, will have to serve about 50 years before he's eligible for parole.

Police say early Aug. 27, 2015, he entered a home through an open garage to steal things, saw the girl, picked her up and took her to his family's nearby garage, bound her, sexually assaulted her and threatened to kill her or her family if she told anyone.

After Riddle let her go, the girl told her parents, who called police. Riddle was arrested later that day. 

In October, he pleaded no contest in a deal with prosecutors, who dropped a kidnapping charge that would have meant a life sentence.

In a letter to the judge, Riddle said he was "regretful for what I did to the victim and her family," Chief Deputy Lancaster County Public Defender Paul Cooney said at Wednesday's sentencing.

He said the court must consider the nature and circumstances of the offense, but it also must consider the "history, character and condition of Riddle in fashioning a fair and just sentence."

"Consider that Cody Riddle has a well-documented, longstanding history of major mental illness, bipolar disorder specifically," Cooney asked.

Riddle has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and autism spectrum disorder, was in special-education classes in school and in juvenile court from age 10 to 19, and has an IQ that has tested in the range of 60s to 70s.

Cooney said Riddle was a ward of the state until he aged out at 19. He was discharged to his family's home in Lincoln from the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center in Kearney just before his birthday, and the state terminated all services to help stabilize him, leaving Riddle and his family without any support.

The sex assault happened about 15 months later, he said.

After Riddle's arrest, his parents told the Journal Star they tried to get help preparing their son for living in the community as an adult but were stymied by a state mental health system that had no safety net for people aging out of the juvenile justice system.

"Here I sit with the frustration from hell on this deal and a little 8-year-old girl gets hurt because of it," Andy Riddle said in 2015.

Wednesday, he and his wife watched from the back row as Cooney, then Deputy Lancaster County Attorney Amy Goodro, made their sentencing arguments.

While Riddle has a long history of mental health issues, Goodro said, he was given numerous opportunities, services and placements to address those issues.

"Instead of taking full advantage of those options, he continued to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol," Goodro said. 

She said Riddle used marijuana, K2 and alcohol daily, then began using pills and cough syrup. Goodro said he sold drugs, stole from his family and used Social Security disability income money on drugs.

Goodro said Riddle was high and drunk when the incident happened.

She took issue with him asking in a letter for the judge to give him a second chance.

"The victim in this case, she doesn't get a second chance. She doesn't get to go back to the same girl that she was ... before this happened to her," Goodro said.

Maret said what Riddle did was every parent's worst nightmare and she didn't know what more could have been done to have protected her that night.

"What I do know is that the system didn't do what it needed to do to protect her from someone like you," she said.

But Maret said she didn't put a lot of fault on the system, because there was nothing to indicate, before that night, that Riddle was a threat to sexually assault someone.

The victim's family wasn't in the courtroom. Reached after sentencing, the girl's father declined to comment.

Journal Star file photo  

Jeff Korbelik has written a book, "Lost Restaurants of Lincoln, Nebraska," that tells the stories of supper clubs, cafés, diners and drive-ins that have called Lincoln home.

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Man pleads guilty in O'Neill immigration case

A 22-year-old man who was swept up in a plot to harbor immigrants in the O'Neill area — allegedly orchestrated by his stepfather, who ran two staffing companies — entered a plea Tuesday in an indictment against him.

Antonio De Jesus Castro pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge and faces up to 10 years in federal prison when he's sentenced in March.

In exchange, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lesley Woods dismissed a second count and agreed not to prosecute De Jesus Castro for immigration, fraud, money laundering or other crimes uncovered by investigators.

She said the plot went on from 2015 until the July raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and involved more than 100 illegal immigrants.

Woods said De Jesus Castro's stepfather, Juan Pablo Sanchez Delgado, asked him to run his business, JP and Sons, when he went to hide out in Las Vegas.

"I didn't think I was doing anything wrong giving people jobs," De Jesus Castro told U.S. Magistrate Judge Cheryl Zwart at Tuesday's hearing.

But he acknowledged he knew the people he was helping get agricultural jobs were in the country illegally.

His attorney, Korey Reiman, said De Jesus Castro didn't exactly know what was going on and was made a patsy after his stepfather took off when it looked as if investigators were closing in on him.

"He got placed in a heck of a position," Reiman said.

So far, 18 people and two businesses — JP and Sons and J Green Valley — have been indicted in connection to the August raid.

The government alleges the businesses supplied Elkhorn River Farms, O'Neill Ventures, GJW LLC in Ainsworth and others with workers without verifying their identities or completing the required paperwork, and used different names and Social Security numbers to hide the workers were in the country illegally.

Some of the indicted were born here, some are lawful residents and some, such as  Sanchez Delgado, had been removed from the country before.

Woods said Sanchez Delgado set up staffing companies in order to employ aliens unlawfully in Nebraska and Minnesota.

So far, two people have entered pleas in the case: De Jesus Castro on Tuesday and Lillian Ajin last month.

Ajin pleaded guilty to conspiracy to harbor aliens and is set for sentencing in February.

At a hearing in November, Woods said Ajin's husband, one of those employed, was prosecuted for illegal re-entry last year and spoke in recorded jail calls about not snitching about what Sanchez Delgado was doing and helping another man get a job with him.

Woods said someone ultimately came forward to the Holt County Sheriff's Office to report that Ajin stole his identity while helping him fill out paperwork at the local hospital.