is the grass any bluer...

is the grass any bluer...
on the other side?

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Chevy Chase Inn's New Owners Want CCI to REMAIN Our Favorite Watering Hole

Chevy Chase Inn's new proprietors (Kevin Heathcoat, Will Pieratt and Bill Farmer) would love to restore a former landmark on Euclid Avenue. After a year of indoor and patio restorations, they've turned their attention to the outside of the building and its 'curb appeal.'

CCI is almost on-campus, and nearly every student who's attended UK in the last 80+ years has walked through its doors at one time or another. Horse farm owners and grooms from the world over have bellied up to its bar; and the spirit of the room when UK is playing ball on television is pure Bluegrass: unpredictable and entertaining!

Who knows how many names the place has been called over the near-century that Lexington's oldest bar has graced Euclid Avenue? The Eye, Eyeball, SeeSeeEye, the pub, the bar, THE place to meet friends who imbibe.

If you haven't been, well, look for the new sign, hopefully soon to be re-created.

The Squirrels! Steve Lyons, Bob Goff, Rex Hart, JP Pennington
Roger BonDurant and Wanda Barnett

I've seen people of all sorts come and go from the front door of to the back; perhaps they'll make a stop at the friendly but lone pinball machine room or bring in bbq or jambalaya from Toulouse & Bourbon next door. The back entrance takes you through a friendly crowd of patio lovers and if you're there on the right night, you'll hear the music of Roger BonDurant and his musical friends.

But back to the sign, what's this about a new sign? I asked Heathcoat about all the goings on with the new ownership of CCI, and the fundraising campaign to buy of a new sign to replicate the OLD neon sign that adorned the Inn in its earlier days.

Rog B and Ronn Crowder
Heathcoat tells me how it came to happen that he went into partnership with Farmer and Pierratt. "We opened Bourbon n’ Toulouse 12 years ago and Bill [Farmer] was one of the first people we met in the neighborhood. We became quick friends and our friendship has only grown as the years have passed. As for the three of us deciding on trying to buy CCI, I was working at Bourbon n’ Toulouse one day in October of 2014 and Bill came busting into the kitchen and exclaimed “CCI is for sale. We have to buy it!” That conversation finished with a handshake and a shot of bourbon and we were all partners."

As I stated above, the idea started in October of 2014, but we did not finish the sale until March 2, 2015. I went to CCI and talked to Red Eye the day after Bill told me he had heard that CCI was for sale and asked him if the bar was really for sale. He assured me that it was and got me in contact with the owners to discuss the potential of us buying it. I learned that there were two other groups wanting to buy the bar, but neither of the other groups wanted to keep it as the oldest bar in Lexington. One group wanted to turn it into a high-end wine bar and the other wanted to gut the 100+ year old farm house and turn it into a retail space.  We had a lot of trouble securing a loan because the business had been down for many years in a row and the numbers did not make sense to bankers. Thankfully BB&T gave us a loan on what we were trying to save and not on what we were trying to buy.

As far as cajun influence, Heathcoat explains, "I’m from Kokomo, IN and Will is from Lexington. We both worked under Joe Vuskovich who was the founder of Jozo’s Bayou Gumbo and later opened Yats. Joe is a native of New Orleans and a career restauranteur. Will was his head cook for over 12 years.Joe later moved Yats to Indianapolis and that is where I got involved. I retired as an elementary school teacher after a solid four month career and found myself bouncing around restaurants while trying to decided what I wanted to do in life. One day Joe sat me down and told me that Will and I needed to move out of Indianapolis and open our own restaurant. He then called Will and told him that he needed to open a restaurant with me."

"His 'kicking us out of the nest' was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for the two of us! We didn’t know that you were supposed to have money to open a restaurant. We opened Bn’T on seven credit cards and $10,000 I borrowed from my brother. We should have never made it in this business, but hard work and a lot of luck has got us to where we are today."

He assures me the entertainment factor will still remain the marquee attraction. "The music will not be changing, we will just be adding to it. I want Roger BonDurant to play every Friday and Saturday, but we all know that is not realistic. After 30+ years, I think he deserves a weekend or two off! When he is not playing I replace him with some great up and coming musicians. It makes for a great mix of youth and experience. One thing we have changed recently is adding music on Sundays.  The Tallboys are playing every Sunday from 8:00 - 11:00pm.  They play every year on Fat Tuesday and are a perfect fit for CCI.

As of now, we’re only offering private parties as a reward for our Kickstarter campaign. It will be more of a “semi-private” party.People will have wristbands that will allow them access to a Bourbon n’ Toulouse buffet staffed by a member of Bn’T. We would never close off our entire patio to our regulars. They’re the most important part of CCI! We do have people that arrange to throw their own parties at CCI all the time from birthdays to wakes, anniversaries to divorce parties and everything in between. There isn’t much that hasn’t been see at The I over the past 83 years!

As far as the fundraising campaign, Heathcoat let me know where it stands. "We are currently at about 70% of our goal of $15,000. If we meet our goal by Thursday at midnight, we hope that we will clear $10,000 of that $15,000 after Kickstarter take their 8 - 10%, cost of goods on the rewards we are giving out and shipping to get those rewards to the donors.  Fully installed, the sign itself is going to cost around $20,000."

CCI puts this smile on my face ;-)
"We are having a tap takeover with West Sixth Brewing to close out the Kickstarter campaign on Thursday from 5:00pm to midnight. We will be featuring their brand new Half-Bite IPA that is being release on Wednesday. We’ll be one of the first bars to have it on tap. I’ve also hired a local DJ to come in and spin some classic 45’s. He does everything from Motown to Blues to Classic Rock. It’s going to be a great party. We’re either going to be celebrating or dropping a tear in our beer, but either way we’ll be enjoying some awesome beer from West Sixth!"

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