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SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — The wait for a new Chili’s Grill and Bar here is far from over, but word is expected in November on whether the chain can set up shop by mid-2008.

The opening depends on construction funding tied up in Washington, D.C., said Scott Poluhowich, director of Morale, Welfare and Recreation, which is overseeing the project.

Congress must approve any MWR spending over $750,000. The Chili’s renovation — the base must convert an old parking garage — came in at $1.75 million, base officials said during a town hall meeting Monday.

If funding approval comes in November, Chili’s would open no later than August, Poluhowich said.

The international restaurant chain offers casual dining and Tex-Mex style fare such as chipotle fried chicken and margaritas. It could fill a dining gap at the Sasebo base between the more upscale Harbor View Club and several fast-food restaurants.

“We sent out a survey [to base residents], and there was interest in bringing in a national restaurant chain,” Poluhowich said.

The military on Okinawa contracted to bring in a Chili’s, and now that restaurant is one of the highest grossing in the chain, he said.

The Sasebo site is a former parking garage beneath the Galaxies club on the main base.

After the 2001 terrorism attacks in the United States, parking garages were no longer allowed under buildings, and plans began to convert the space.

Heating equipment, utility lines and a fire suppression system must be added to the space before Chili’s can move in.

After paying for the renovation, the base will share profits with the restaurant, according to MWR.

Also at Monday’s town hall meeting, base pet owners expressed concerns that it can take up to a year to have an on-base veterinarian spay or neuter cats and dogs.

U.S. Army veterinarians are on base, but most of their time is spent inspecting food at the base commissaries, base commander Capt. Tilghman Payne said.

Pet owners can wait until an appointment is available or find a Japanese veterinarian off base to perform the surgery, which can cost $100 to $200, base officials said.

Meanwhile, the Sasebo Navy Exchange will soon have plus-size women’s clothing, base officials said. The items could begin arriving next week and will be part of a pilot program to determine demand for the garments.


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