The downtown area has a new whiskey and scotch bar.
Business hours are Tuesday-Saturday 4 p.m.-2 a.m. and Sunday 5 p.m.-midnight.
Ivar’s owner Chad Hughes and former Uncle Earl’s and The Happy Note owner Brad Watts are the minds behind The River Room. Watts said the duo saw downtown’s newfound buzz and wanted to be a part of the scene.
“For the longest time, I didn’t know if downtown would happen,” Watts said. “I remember 15 years ago, Frank McMains [a previous owner of Red Star Bar] and Eric Carnegie [general manager] at Stroubes seemed like they were the only guys doing things here. They were the pioneers. Now, downtown is trending in a positive direction. It was an opportunity for us, and we just jumped on it.”
Hughes and Watts made a deal for the building in June after Red Star Bar closed for the second time under new owners Robin and Gabe Daigle and Jeff Kaufman. Red Star Bar had been open for about two years before closing again.
Watts said the building has gone through almost three months’ worth of renovation. The building’s facelift includes a new coat of blue paint on the outside, upgraded air conditioning on the patio and wood floors on the inside. The interior also features all new fixtures and bathrooms.
The look and feel of the bar is quite different from its previous tenant. There are lounge-style seating areas with sofas and loveseats, and the jukebox has been replaced with a record player and about 200 vinyls that customers can choose from.
“We’ve always said our goal was for a customer to order a couple of Old Fashioneds and a glass of wine and ask to hear side two of Led Zeppelin’s ‘IV,’” Watts said.
The River Room’s specialty will be its selection of about 50 bourbons and 30 scotches. The drink menu features a half-dozen standard cocktails, like the French 75 and Sazerac, and another half-dozen signature cocktails.
One signature drink is named “Cry Me A River” and features jalapeño tequila. The Lazy River, another option, is simply the customer’s choice of scotch in a glass.
“We want to let the scotches and whiskeys speak for themselves,” Watts said. “We didn’t want to be a craft cocktail bar.”
The bar will not include live music.
Watts said the next goal is to finish up work on the outside patio. He estimated that the work will take about a month to complete.
“We want it to be done right,” he said. “The big thing, when you walk in here, is that you’ll notice we put a lot of thought into this.”
Follow Matthew Sigur on Twitter @MatthewSigur.