If the Middleton family vision is fulfilled, the 1600 block will soon be a place where eager Columbians bounce from business to business to drink, dine and be entertained.
Perhaps the most enticing part for the family is that they’ll own the majority of the stops. The Middletons — Scott and his children Greg and Sara — have dramatically remade a hefty portion of that downtown Columbia block. Their latest venture is Smoked, a restaurant and bar that promises oysters, smoked meat and an on-site microbrewery. They hope to open it in fall 2021.
On that same block they already own a restaurant/bar/bowling alley The Grand, vegan restaurant Good Life, and another bar/restaurant, Main Course, which offers up virtual golf suites and event space.
“It's nice to be able to come over here and bowl and then maybe go off the street for dinner and then go somewhere else for drinks,” said Sara Middleton at a press conference for Smoked on Dec. 14. “It's that big city feel, all in one block up and look at all the things that we can do in here. So I hope that there's overlap.”
At the press conference, the family and representatives from their contractors Mashburn Construction and Garvin Design Group gave more details on the forthcoming restaurant.
Smoked will be an upscale restaurant, with what the family expects to be about $35 to $45 average checks. In it will be a bar area, an oyster bar, an outdoor patio and a private dining area. Additionally, the upstairs area will hold two apartments, a four bedroom and a one bedroom.
The family described it as their first full-fledged restaurant, with their other businesses pairing food with additional concepts.
“It's not going to be the least expensive restaurant in town," Scott Middleton said. "It’s not going to be the old cafe.”
The family has been active in the last year, announcing a massive 65,000 square foot brewery on North Main Street in March. The microbrewery at Smoked will be under the same brand as the North Main Street one, Greg Middleton said, with the downtown facility opening after the large-scale operation.
Middleton's latest project is a repurposing of three longtime businesses that rest in a building made in 1866. It’s a project that takes advantage of historic preservation tax credits, though Scott Middleton said that isn’t necessarily an indicator of a low-cost endeavor.
The family initially expected the project to cost roughly $150 to $300 a square foot. After electing to pursue a historic rehabilitation, the cost went to about $500 per square foot, Scott said.
This form of project also requires a substantial amount of construction work, said Brian Johnston, vice president of operations for Mashburn Construction. He underscored it goes through historic preservation review, structural integrity review and other work.
“It's much more than a renovation. When you're dealing with these historic buildings, it's really more of a rehabilitation, revitalization,” he said.
The Middleton’s project fits into a larger revitalization of downtown Columbia over the last decade. The thoroughfare has been heavily targeted by local lawmakers — including in 2011 when Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin declared that if Main Street didn’t improve, it’d be considered a failure — and has reaped the rewards.
The city’s Main Street now boasts a relatively thriving five-block stretch that continues to grow, with the 1200 block holding popular businesses Bourbon, Hall’s Chophouse and beloved dive bar The Whig. The Middleton’s 1600 block hosts their businesses and other popular spots like Hendrix, Lula Drake Wine Parlour and more. The adjacent 1700 block, home to Columbia's City Hall, is beginning to see some new life with jazz club The Joint and bar-arcade Transmission having opened there in the last two years.
Scott Middleton asserted that the growth is good and provides benefits for his businesses and the others.
“It's really good, I think you pick up that synergy,” Scott said. “As a citizen living on Main Street, I have so many opportunities and options.”