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.