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Fuel Room inks pact for fairgrounds concerts

Mark Khayat

Mark Khayat

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Updated: March 2, 2013 7:24AM

LIBERTYVILLE — The Fuel Room at Austin’s Saloon and Eatery has hosted everything from Vince Neil to “Nunsense” since opening in November 2006, with its Web site boasting that “our venue is so small, any closer and you’d be on stage.”

But if bigger is better, the Libertyville-based Fuel Inc., took a step in that direction Tuesday by announcing a five-year deal to provide exclusive, year-round entertainment rights for the Lake County Fairgrounds, including inside its 65,000-square-foot exhibition hall.

“When you look at that facility, wow, it’s just incredible. It was a great thing to put in the middle of Chicago and Milwaukee, (where) you’re able to pull people out of two major cities,” Austin’s owner Mark Khayat said, adding that the Fuel Room can accommodate about 750 people while the fairgrounds “is going to be a whole ’nother level.”

According to an event rental guide circulated by the Fairgrounds Association, the exposition hall can accommodate 6,500 people for a theater-style program and up to 10,000 people for a standing-room event.

The property at 1060 E. Peterson Road in Grayslake, about two miles west of Austin’s, opened in 2008 and has hosted primarily trade shows outside of its summertime county fair schedule.

Upcoming events include a gymnastics competition and the Northern Illinois Boat Show.

For Khayat, who said he has been working with fairgrounds officials on the pact for the past four or five years, the next challenge is to start booking acts.

He said he plans to “overbid” in an effort to attract performers, saying “it’s going to happen faster than later.”

“I put out a bunch of offers yesterday, and we’ll see how it’s received,” Khayat said, adding that while he can’t announce any looming dates yet, “we’ll definitely get something out there this year.”

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