Carrie Rengers

New downtown restaurant to open in existing business

There’s a new restaurant opening downtown this spring, but it’s a business that’s also already open.

Sound confusing?

It’s Roxy’s Downtown.

Since John Hammer, the primary owner and producing artistic director, purchased Cabaret Oldtown at 412 E. Douglas in October 2014 and converted it to Roxy’s, he’s planned on adding a restaurant to the theater and venue.

“I had a very large vision for the venue,” Hammer says. “We’re reaching a lot of those goals.”

In the fall, he added a large screen and projector for films and presentations. Now, he’s focusing on creating a new downtown dining destination.

“We wanted to expand into a functioning kitchen,” Hammer says. “We’re actually going to be able to have a true cafe-style kitchen and menu.”

Roxy’s has had appetizers and desserts since it opened, but a full kitchen means reconfiguring the space and moving a costume shop.

Hammer says it’s “going to allow us to do more with our menu.”

New general manager Josh Ward, who most recently held that job at Twelve, has hired Alan Schmidt as the chef. Schmidt also formerly worked at Twelve, Newport Grill and Ya Ya’s.

Schmidt says he likes the idea of building something from scratch.

“It’s something I’ve always been interested in.”

He says he wants to offer locally sourced small bites.

“I don’t want to say it’s strictly tapas.”

Schmidt says dishes will be on the smaller, more affordable side.

He says he wants to create menus to coincide with productions. That could mean serving food that’s featured in productions or from the eras in which the shows are set.

Roxy’s will remain dark on Mondays but be open for dinner Tuesday through Thursday. If there are no shows planned for a particular week, then it’ll be open on the weekend as well.

Hammer says he wants people to think of Roxy’s for dinner even when there aren’t shows.

“That is exactly it.”

He’d also like them to think of Roxy’s on show nights, too. Hammer says most people go out to dinner before a Roxy’s show and some go for drinks.

“I want Roxy’s to be the one-stop shop.”

Ward says he first wants to appeal to people who live in the area who might otherwise go to Old Town.

“They can just stop here, which is probably closer to some of their homes anyways.”

Then Ward says he’s got to expand the word about the Roxy’s restaurant, and he says he knows there’s a lot of competition for dining dollars.

“That’s kind of our hurdle right now.”

He’s also planning beer and liquor dinners.

Hammer is planning dinner entertainment, such as lounge singers and classical guitarists, at no cover charge for nights without shows.

The new Roxy’s restaurant will open no later than the second week of April. Hours will be 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. to start.

“If it really takes off, then, of course, we’ll adjust the hours accordingly,” Hammer says.

He’s adding a Douglas marquee along with a couple of large murals to attract new attention. The Douglas Avenue entrance will be the primary restaurant entrance while the theater entrance is in the back.

Hammer says he’s happy to see that a similar concept in Vorshay’s Cocktail Lounge is opening nearby at 417 E. Douglas as well.

“The more we have of that sort of thing here, especially right downtown on Douglas, the more active it’s going to become,” he says. “Much like the growth of Old Town.”

Hammer says it’s an exciting time in general for downtown and for Roxy’s in particular.

“It’s going to be a big year for us.”

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers