Back in 1991, when called Eastern Standard, this was home to the first regular gig for Dave Matthews Band.
"It's been a long time dream of mine," says Will Richey, while lying on his back with a wet paintbrush in hand, "to do a Southern restaurant."
That dream may come true next month when the 35-year-old opens The Whiskey Jar, a concept he and two partners are putting into the space long occupied by Escafé, which is moving to Water Street.
At 227 West Main, workers have already stripped the place to the walls (with exposed brick in some places), installed a new floor, and there are plans to rebuild the bar without any clutter overhead.
Richey is well known as the owner of Revolutionary Soup and as founder of the Charlottesville Wine Guild; but it's Red Row Farm, a little organic plot he and his wife, Lisa, operate near Esmont that will put much of the food on these tables.
Raising pigs, chickens, sheep– along with plenty of okra, kale, and collard greens– the couple is engaging in what economists call "vertical integration," but Richey says his new restaurant's aim is "taking local to its next logical conclusion."
"It'll be southern food specific to the Piedmont region of Virginia in our great-grandmothers' era," he says, "at prices they'd recognize also."
Appropriately, at this storefront in the shadow of the Omni hotel, The Whiskey Jar finds itself just downstairs from another southern concept, Brookville, under chef-owner Harrison Keevil.
"Harrison and I are very good friends," says Richey. "There will be no overlapping of plates."
As he applies a coat of "falcon brown" paint to a kitchen-area wall (the main space will be "Spanish red"), Richey says The Whiskey Jar will also feature work on the walls by artisans, not artists, and he hopes to offer vernacular music, including old-time and bluegrass.
And there will be whiskey– lots of Virginia and other varieties, along with scotch and other liquors.
"We want to be the clean and well-lighted place for the late-night crowd," he says.