Author’s note: This article was updated about five hours after it was first posted to provide the correct last name for Bobbi Kirkpatrick, the Satisfaction assistant general manager who is to be the Roxy’s general manager. Please see this comment for further details.
The owner of Satisfaction is working to convert a nearby bar known for its blue-collar vibe into a club for young professionals.
Staton Ellis, who bought Satisfaction seven years ago, recently signed a lease for the old Down Under Pub space at 802 W. Main St. He plans to open his new venture next month as soon as redecorating is complete and his alcohol sales permit is secured.
The establishment will be a nonsmoking private club known as the Roxy. Ellis envisions a quiet lounge for young professionals to enjoy conversation, craft beers and a unique selection of fine wines.
Because the building’s kitchen area is so small and Ellis wants to wipe away most traces of the Down Under, the only food he intends to offer at the Roxy will be prepared across the street in Satisfaction’s kitchen. Staff will deliver orders to Roxy patrons.
“I’m real excited about it,” Ellis said. “I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I think we’re going to offer a good product to people. This is a totally new type of venture for me — no food; I’m a restaurant guy first and foremost. These are uncharted waters for me, but I think we’ll figure it out as we go along.”
The decor should call to mind a plush 1920s hangout for Chicago gangsters, Ellis said. He plans to institute at least a minimal dress code -- intended, it sounds, to create a professionals-only environment that would be significantly more 'exclusive' than the Roxy's predecessor.
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Bobbi Kirkpatrick Richardson, who has worked as an assistant general manager at Satisfaction for three years, will be the Roxy’s GM.
“I feel like the concept of the Roxy is not something that’s been done in Durham,” she said. “We’re looking for it be a place where young professionals can come and have drinks and conversation without it being a loud — such a loud bar environment.”
She feels that the Roxy’s being a nonsmoking establishment could set it apart from one downtown bar aimed at a higher-end clientele.
“The cigar bar, it gets very smoky,” Kirkpatrick Richardson said. “A lot of people don’t like that. I think that’s one thing that will set us apart from Whiskey.”
Kirkpatrick Richardson expects the Roxy to be “a little bit more laid-back atmosphere than Whiskey,” she added.
The old pub’s logo still adorns the top of the building and its front door, but Ellis plans to wipe all that away by mid-May. Ellis, whose uncle ran Bill’s BBQ of Wilson, has removed the porch benches that used to set Down Under’s mostly unremarkable front apart from every other establishment in town.
The basic shape of the establishment will remain the same, including the bar area. Ellis intends to keep some of the fake brick paneling as well as the floor, which will be buffed and polished. The rest of the interior should look very different, from the bathrooms to the seating.
That means no pool or foosball, although the proprietor said he’ll consider bringing in a high-end pool table sometime in the future.
Ellis said his mother will take a hand in the redecorating. “She spent five minutes in here and had a whole lot of money spent in her mind,” he said.
Ellis and Kirkpatrick Richardson have been working with a wine distributor to craft the Roxy’s new wine menu. (Satisfaction’s wine offerings will also be revamped.)
“Nobody in Durham’s going to have a wine list like ours,” the general manger said.
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Ellis says he doesn't know why the Down Under Pub went under. Rodney Allison of Property Advisory Services, which leases the space, said in a voice-mail message that the establishment "was a great tenant for us at Brightleaf. We hate that they had to leave."
Efforts to interview the pub's last owner, Chrystal Kelly, were unsuccessful. But public records suggest that the bar may have sought additional, possibly riskier financing before its closure.
In August 2009, a filing with the North Carolina Secretary of State indicated that Kelly's company, Les Bontemps, had made a deal with Sterling Funding in which the Tampa, Fla., business listed Kelly's future Visa and Mastercard sales as collateral.
According to the organization's Web site, Sterling provides businesses anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 in return for a fixed percentage of daily credit card sales. The Web site states that Sterling is buying future receivables, not making a loan, and that Sterling is often able to provide funds to businesses that would not be able to borrow money from a bank.
Last May, another transaction with a Florida company called Faton was recorded by the Secretary of State. The collateral in that case was essentially all of the Les Bontemps' assets, including equipment, inventory, documents, credit card receivables and deposit accounts. A note in the filing stated that Les Bontemps had agreed not to further encumber itself.
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For his part, Ellis said he has signed a lease for 802 W. Main St. that runs through the end of 2011. He hopes the business will stick around a lot longer than that.
If all goes as hoped on both sides of the intersection of Duke and Main streets, by late 2013 there could be three or four hundred residents — and perhaps that many office workers — at a renovated Chesterfield Building. Ellis is looking forward to having an expanded group of residents and workers that he can serve at Satisfaction and the Roxy.
“I like the direction that downtown Durham’s going in,” Ellis said of the continuing redevelopment. “It has changed tremendously in the seven years I’ve been here.”