Principals from some of Baton Rouge’s most popular new eateries are teaming up to open two new establishments downtown in the building at 421 Third St.—a sports bar and grill, and a traditional Creole restaurant with a high-end private event space on its second floor.
Dustin Malina, formerly the general manager at Overpass Merchant, is leading the team. His partners include Kalurah Street Grill co-owner Brad Watts and Jolie Pearl Oyster Bar general manager Eric Carnegie. Together, they plan to open The Bengal Tap Room, a sports bar and grill that will be located in the 3,000-square-foot space formerly occupied by The Draft House, which closed in late October.
Adjacent to the bar, the partners are planning to open a traditional Creole restaurant, Cecilia, in the 3,000-square-foot space most recently occupied by Restaurant IPO, which closed in 2016. Above Cecilia, in the space that was once home to The Office bar and, more recently, The Break Room, will be a 6,000-square-foot private event space called The Loft at Cecilia that will be available for receptions, luncheons and corporate parties.
Kalurah Street Grill Executive Chef Kelly McCann will serve as executive chef at Cecilia and design the restaurant’s Creole menu. He will pull double duty, going back and forth between Kalurah Street Grill and the new downtown restaurant. Malina will serve as general manager of both new establishments.
Though downtown has proven a tricky market for some restaurants, Watts and Malina believe there is demand for both a new sports bar and grill and a traditional Creole eatery on Third Street. Watts—a partner in several local establishments, including The River Room bar on Laurel Street—says the two questions he hears most from patrons downtown are: “Where can I watch the game?”’ and “Where can I get authentic Creole food?”
“That tells me there is a need down there for both,” he says, adding both The Bengal Tap Room, which will go by BTR, and Cecilia will target locals and visitors.
“I think there are enough people living and working down there to sustain the restaurant business during the lean times,” Watts says. “That’s the hard part. You have to have some capital so you can withstand the tough times because there’s not much going on in the summer. But I think there’s enough activity now to do well.”
The Loft at Cecilia, a second-floor space above both the bar and restaurant, will be marketed for corporate parties and events, wedding receptions, and functions like class reunions and luncheons. With a view overlooking the Mississippi River, the space is unlike any other in Baton Rouge, Malina says.
Renovations to The Bengal Tap Room have been underway for several weeks and the bar is on track to open before the end of the year. Cecilia and The Loft at Cecilia should open in the first quarter of 2018.