With East End Main Street's help, the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority has been trying to get owner Philip Chin to renovate and rent out the old New China building since 2009.
Those efforts soon could be over. Chaber is negotiating a lease with Chin. He's already won a conditional-use permit from the city's Zoning Board for what he describes as a live-music venue -- an extension of the existing club he runs on Elizabeth Street. Chaber could not reached Thursday for comment.
Cavender said he's been working with Chaber for a while. "He's been working to get his Ts crossed with Philip Chin. He's another responsible businessman.
"The Empty Glass is recognized across the nation as a venue for live music. I personally think it would be a very smart business move, and another great victory for us in getting these buildings properly refurbished."
Eddie Kwok, the 21-year-old son of Karina, said he's been helping his family get the new restaurant off the ground while home from college for the summer.
"We're planning on operating a hibachi grill, and we'll have sushi, too," he said. "It will be about two months to the grand opening."
Main Street, through design consultant Mike Gioulis, helped with the façade plans, he said.
"The restaurant will be on the first floor. We'll be able to fit 90 to 100 people. Lunch and dinner, seven days a week, 365 days a year."
Compared to the casual, mostly take-out Main Kwong next door, "We're trying to make it a little more formal," he said. "We're trying to make it very traditional Japanese. We're in the process of applying for a liquor license to serve sake and beer."
The probable name is Umami -- Japanese for delicious, savory taste, he said.
Cavender is crossing his fingers that the New China deal goes through. Along with that, CURA has been targeting the empty building directly across Elizabeth Street, another former restaurant. The property, owned by the Dandy family trust, is tied up in bankruptcy court. CURA's East End Community Renewal Plan identifies both sites as keys to the success of the entire neighborhood.
"People have invested millions and millions of dollars in their buildings in the last few years," Cavender said. "You have these empty properties. They're off-putting.
"Normally these larger buildings are renovated first and the smaller ones follow," he said. "We're seeing the opposite."
Reach Jim Balow at ba...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.