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SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — Get your rib bibs ready.

Work is to begin as early as next month on a long-awaited Chili’s Grill and Bar on base, the Morale, Welfare and Recreation office said.

Congress approved $1.75 million this month to remodel an old parking garage into the popular American Tex-Mex restaurant, MWR director Scott Poluhowich said.

MWR plans to begin contracting work as soon as possible, he said, and base residents could be dining on ribs and sipping margaritas by the end of 2008.

No work can begin on the space below Galaxies until the base receives official notification from Congress of the spending approval. Poluhowich said that’s expected to arrive soon after Jan. 1.

“We’re waiting right now. We got notification that it was supposedly approved by Congress,” he said. “Everybody is standing by to go.”

The restaurant chain has proved popular at U.S. military installations in the Pacific.

A Chili’s opened earlier this month at Yokosuka Naval Base and was mobbed by so many customers, it was forced to close to rework its staffing plan.

The restaurant attracted about 1,000 people per day during the first week of operation.

An Okinawa location is one of the highest-grossing restaurants in the franchise, which has about 1,000 restaurants worldwide, according to Sasebo MWR.

Sasebo officials took note of the troubles in Yokosuka and are planning for heavy business when the restaurant opens, Poluhowich said.

“We’ve been in close contact with them all along. … The learning curve they are dealing with, we are trying to get ahead of it,” he said.

Any base spending above $750,000 must be approved by Congress, and base officials have been waiting on the decision for months.

The restaurant could open in the fall, Poluhowich said.

Issuing contracts will take about three months, construction will take about four months and staff training by a contractor will take about two months, he said.

Meanwhile, renovations were recently completed on the Hario Pub, according to MWR.

The bar has been converted into a cantina and provides one of the few places to drink and socialize at the Hario housing complex, the Navy housing area located off base in Sasebo.

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