The Downtown Club is primed for a Monday reopening. File Photo
Written by David Castellon
An iconic downtown Fresno restaurant is about to return — once again.
The Downtown Club at 2120 Kern St. shut down about four years ago. For a time it operated under The Downtown Club name with a new owner in a venture that eventually fizzled out. It reopened in late 2015 with a new name, The Republican, and a new menu. But that venture shut down a little more than a half year later due to slow business.
And for a time, the future of the site seemed unclear as the building, constructed in 1919, was put up for sale.
But building co-owner Stephanie Stine said she and her partner recently took it off the market after deciding to relaunch the restaurant themselves.
“We just decided it was a great business, a great location. We decided we didn’t want to see it unused downtown, so we decided to run it ourselves,” despite she and her partner — whom she declined to name — having no restaurant experience.
But Stine, an accountant by trade, said she has experience in event planning and plans to use those skills to handle the booking of the new Downtown Club for wedding receptions, parties and other special events.
As for running the restaurant and bar, “We have a team and a manager who have been in the restaurant business over 15 years,” she said.
“I think we have people very well experienced in that that area, so it’s not nerve wracking in that way at all.”
Plans are for the new restaurant to offer casual dining with a menu of American and Mediterranean food, and since the bar is separated from the dining area, it can be a destination for people to enjoy drinks without dining.
Since deciding to relaunch the restaurant, Stine said some renovations have been underway, including upgrading counter tops and replacing lighting, but for the most part the last tenants left the place in good shape.
The kitchen appliances also remain, as do the chairs, tables and the old printing press — from the days when the room was Fresno’s The Republican newspaper office, before it was converted into a members-only restaurant — in the dining room.
“I would say it’s going to go back to the roots of what the Downtown Club has always been — a nice place downtown, whether they choose to eat or drink,” said Stine, adding that she believes the timing is right, as Kern Street is an up-and-coming part of the downtown scene, and the growth of mixed commercial and residential buildings downtown is bringing more people to live in the area and to downtown businesses.
Plans are to open The Downtown Club in September, near the time renovations to the Fulton Mall should be done, which could draw more people to the area, she said.
And as Stine sees it, The Downtown Club still has a loyal fan base, as the phones to the old restaurant weren’t turned off, and “People still call and ask if they are open for dinner and to book events.”
When the new restaurant opens, it will not be a full opening, said Stine, explaining that initially the bar and restaurant will open at the dinner hour and offer only a limited food menu.
“A little bit more than an appetizer, but not quite a dinner,” she said, adding that later full lunch and dinner menus will be offered.