Carrie Rengers

Lou’s Charcuteria and Bar to open near arena in former Walkers Bar & Venue space

Luis “Big Lou” Lopez II is adding another restaurant and bar to his plate.

The owner of Emerson Biggin’s and Rock Island Live downtown and the Emerson Biggin’s on the west side now plans to open Lou’s Charcuteria and Bar in November at the former Walkers Bar & Venue space on South Commerce Street east of Intrust Bank Arena.

“It is a done deal,” says Lopez, who signed a lease for the space Monday.

The short-lived Walkers closed earlier this month. There’s news coming later this week on a new business going in the former Jettys Pizza space next door.

Lopez is opening Lou’s with his daughter, Erica. He says they each have their own reasons for wanting to open the business.

“I always wanted to do something, I guess, with my name – putting my name to it,” he says.

Lopez is a native of Margarita Island off the mainland of Venezuela.

“I wanted to bring a little bit of my hometown in Wichita,” he says. “A little bit of that taste.”

Erica Lopez is a defense attorney who also manages the downtown Emerson Biggin’s.

“It’s going to be nice to finally do something that’s in my element, that I’ve wanted to do a long time,” she says.

“A charcuteria is a place that focuses on salt-cured meat and then cheeses.”

She says there will be nuts, jam, honey, bread and pickled items to go with the meat and cheese.

“So people can look forward to more sharing, family-style meals on a butcher block,” she says.

There will be a few deli-style sandwiches as well. On nights where there are events at the arena, Lopez says she’ll offer a buffet and appetizers to order.

“We’re well aware that the arena brings out a large amount of people,” she says. “I know how to feed the masses efficiently.”

Lou’s also will have what Erica Lopez calls vintage cocktails with simple syrup and fresh mint and basil.

“Ideally, I would like to do lunch, but I feel like starting … with a happy hour, like 4 to midnight, is where we’ll be,” she says. “My gut is saying happy hour. My vision is simple, social and fun.”

The venue will have some acoustic music but no full bands as Walkers had.

Lopez says she doesn’t plan many changes to the interior.

“I think that the builders did an incredible job on that place,” she says. “You get this rustic feeling that kind of warms you.”

Lopez says she considers Lou’s a separate category from Emerson Biggin’s, which is a sports bar, and Rock Island Live, which focuses on music.

“I’m a person that believes Wichita is craving culture,” she says.

Lopez says she feels that restaurants stay within a certain safe dining realms “and get scared that Wichita won’t accept … some different cultures.”

“People are being more open minded about coming downtown and trying new things,” she says.

After much research into shipping products and ingredients, Lopez is now confident that she can get items “without having to fly to Spain or New York or Chicago.”

“It’s really hard being in the Midwest sometimes to get these imported,” she says.

Sometimes, she says, it costs more for shipping than products.

“It’s really frustrating.”

Lopez says she also wishes that the arena booked more events – and bigger ones.

She adds, though, “I like what’s going on there.”

Lopez and her late brother, Luis “Weezer” Lopez III, both thought opening a venue near the arena would be smart.

“He thought that we needed to be right there next to the arena someday,” Luis Lopez says of his son.

The younger Lopez managed and co-owned the west-side Emerson Biggin’s and died in a car accident on his way home from the business in January.

Lopez says his daughter told him, “Dad, this is a great chance to fulfill Weezer’s dream.”

“Now, we’re almost there. Can you believe that?” he says. “There’s a lot of sentimental value behind it.”

Reach Carrie Rengers at 316-268-6340 or crengers@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @CarrieRengers.

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