Painters brush on the final touches, artwork sits propped against the wall waiting to be hung, and cleaners vacuum and mop ahead of the opening of Charleston airport's first passenger lounge.
The initial phase of The Club CHS, named for the airport's three-letter designator code, launches Wednesday at Charleston International, where food and libations will be available free for certain passengers and any other ticket holder who wants to pay $40 for a day pass.
The first section of the 83-seat club, about 3,400 square feet overlooking the central hall area under the dome, includes a section to sit and relax, another area where laptops can be placed on a counter and a quiet corner where phone conversations will not be allowed.
"We call them Relax, Reflect and Replenish zones," said Sue Cauthen, director of construction project management for Plano, Texas-based Airport Lounge Development, which is footing the bill to upfit and lease the space. The airport is not invested in the project.
The zones also are called Productivity, Privacy, Resting, Replenish, Refresh and Cell Free Zones.
Entrance to the second-level club by elevator is between retail shops Eddie Bauer and Tech on the Go, across from Caviar & Bananas restaurant.
A bar was not included in the initial concept, but the lounge developer noticed the growth in the airport's passenger and airline traffic and decided to add one.
The pub is still under construction and will not open on Wednesday. An opening time frame has not been determined.
When completed, the 1,200-square-foot bar will overlook the food service area in the central hall below and include a U-shaped bar and silent TVs with closed captioning. A long table with high chairs next to a window will allow customers to look out over the atrium.
Even without the bar open, visitors to the initially completed section will still be served drinks from a temporary portable stand set up behind the scenes. A food preparation area sits between the pub and the lounge's relaxation area. A buffet line will be offered as well.
The lounge also is 100 percent plastic-less, using bamboo and compostable options instead of plastic drink stirrers and straws. A portion of all wine purchases will be donated to a variety of charities that help fight hunger in the U.S., support U.S. veterans initiatives and raise funds to support ovarian cancer screening.
The Club CHS is available to Priority Pass membership along with LoungeKey, Lounge Club, Lounge Pass and Diners Club International, which represent a vast number of credit cards, banks and other financial institutions.
A lounge spokesman said those with priority passes do not automatically get in free.
"This is a benefit that comes along with the annual fees they pay for their credit cards," said James Zackey of Airport Lounge Development in an email to the airport Tuesday.
First-class passengers aren't automatically allowed entry into the club either.
Zackey said the lounge operators "don’t want every first-class passenger flying out of CHS to come to the lounge and expect to be given access."
Those who are allowed in will simply scan their boarding pass or show a membership card at the front desk to gain entry to the upstairs club. Those buying a day pass can get a discount with a AAA membership, Cauthen said.
The club came to fruition after British Airways announced in October it would serve the Charleston area with twice-weekly flights, but the idea had already been stirring among airport officials to add a lounge.
Deputy Director Hernan Peña was walking around the terminal shortly after he was hired three years ago, when the airport's overhaul had not been completed, and noticed the empty space next to the atrium.
He asked about it and was told it could be an events space, but nothing had been decided about what to do with it.
"We needed to find the best use and learned about the concept of a shared-used lounge," Peña said.
"When British Airways started looking here, they said they needed a lounge, and we made it happen," airport CEO Paul Campbell said.
Cauthen believes the lounge won't bite into food and concession businesses throughout the terminal.
"Sometimes you need a place to work and a little bit of privacy, but you don't want to be in the turmoil of the terminal," she said.
Peña said the lounge diversifies the airport's offerings.
"This provides another option for those who want access to food and drinks," he said. "It contributes to the overall passenger experience."
A lounge company executive said the firm is happy to be a part of the growth at Charleston's airport.
"The Club CHS brings an alternative place for Charleston travelers to relax and experience the true spirit that makes Charleston an award-winning city for business and leisure,” said Nancy Knipp, senior vice president, in a statement.
The development company also has access agreements to its lounges through more than 20 domestic and international airlines, including British Airways. That does not mean passengers who fly those airlines have automatic access to the club. There are restrictions.
Minority-owned Hyde Park Hospitality of Chicago will manage and staff the operation and work with Sodexo, a worldwide lounge management company with its U.S. base in Gaithersburg, Md., outside Washington, D.C.