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Gastropub coming to Kanawha City in old Murad's

By Megan Workman

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As Donna Taylor and Branden Ledford signed a lease for their new restaurant about two weeks ago, three curious passers-by asked if the well-known bar was open for business again.

It will be soon, but it won't look or taste like the restaurant that served hungry and thirsty patrons at the same spot for nearly a quarter century.

The couple is opening the state's first "gastropub," a pub that offers high-quality food and drinks, Taylor said. B&D Gastropub will serve fresh burgers and brews at the former Murads' at 35th Street.

Taylor, a Madison native, and Ledford, who grew up in Fayetteville, signed the $2,500-a-month lease April 30 and anticipate opening the first week of June.

Taylor, who used to frequent the former Kanawha City hangout after graduate school classes at the University of Charleston, said the location is ideal.

A restaurant has occupied the space since the construction of the 35th Street Bridge and diners know the site, she said.

"It's a proven location," Taylor said with a smile. "We want the same [Murads'] customers to come back. It was a great crowd that came here, and we welcome new customers, of course."

Murads' closed its doors after 23 years a year ago this month.

Co-owner Ronnie Murad said at the time that part of the reason for closing the bar was because his brother, then-66-year-old Roger Murad, was getting older. Roger managed the bar.

The business was a joint operation by Ronnie, Roger, and their brother Rick Murad, who died of cancer in 2002. His daughter, Amy Webber, took over for her father when he died.

Ronnie, who called the closing "emotional," "bittersweet," and "a relief," said they wanted to spend more time with their family.

The Murads' parents owned Murads' on Charleston's East End from 1948 to 1973. Murads' opened in Kanawha City in July 1989.

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones said last week he was "disheartened" and "caught off guard" when Murads' announced its unexpected closure.

He said the sports bar had a good history that served a wide demographic of patrons, but he is happy to hear a new business is opening in its place.

"A lot of upper-income and a lot of not-so-upper-income people went there and I think that was a key to their success," Jones said. "It will be nice that they're taking over that place. Any time a good business is opening in this city, I'm all for it."

Despite its unfamiliar name and high-quality products, Taylor assured potential customers that "blue jeans and a T-shirt are just fine."

"We're going to serve a higher quality of food, but it's not high class where you have to dress up," Ledford said.

Still, the building's interior is getting dressed up, and the business has nearly 3,700-square-feet of space and room to seat 110 people, Ledford said.

As part of the lease, the building is getting a brand new ceiling, carpeting, lighting, walls, some tiling and equipment.

Power washers sprayed years of dirt and grease off the walls in the kitchen on Friday.

The new owners will keep equipment from Murads' that remains in good condition, including the refrigerator and freezer, some booths and tables and the flat-screen TVs hanging on the walls.

Ledford said people could still visit the spot to watch sports games from 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. They plan on staying open later on Fridays and Saturdays.

The section of the restaurant that once featured arcade games and pool tables has been closed off and is occupied by Lisa's, which has three slot machines and serves food next door.

The couple got the idea to open the state's first gastropub after they ate at one in Florida. From her feta-stuffed burger to his Monte Cristo sandwich, both of which will be available at the new restaurant, the couple said they enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere of the gastropub.

They will serve fresh meat from Buzz Food Service and fresh produce from Corey Brothers, both Charleston-based companies.

Menu prices range from $4 to $20 and include appetizers such as jerk chicken nachos and feta and dates wrapped in bacon. The menu will also offer a long list of burgers, including stuffed patties, and fresh-cut chips and salads.

Ledford said the bar will start off serving six beers and his goal is to tap at least 10 brews.

Even though neither Taylor nor Ledford has ever owned a business, they are confident that they're opening something better than the surrounding competitors.

"There isn't much around here that isn't a chain restaurant," Ledford said. "Some people say Applebee's has the best burger in town, but we'll be the best burger they can get."

While the place is cleaned and redecorated, Taylor said they are waiting for the building inspection and a license from the health department before they can open.

The restaurant will hold interviews for cooks, servers, bartenders and dishwashers Friday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the restaurant. Call Ledford at 304-638-3382 for more information.

Reach Megan Workman at megan.workman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.

 


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