Downtown Columbia's Boone Tavern, Bleu restaurant to share space

Monday, February 20, 2012 | 10:10 p.m. CST; updated 7:14 p.m. CST, Wednesday, February 22, 2012

**This story has been modified to correct the description of Boone Tavern's original location.

COLUMBIA — Boone Tavern has been a fixture in the downtown community since 1983.

But with the owner's impending retirement, manager James Gray said there will be some changes in the restaurant's future.


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Bleu, a restaurant and wine bar at the corner of Eighth and Cherry streets, will move two blocks north to Eighth and Walnut streets to join Boone Tavern in a capacity yet to be determined.

"The Tavern is not going to close," Gray said. "We're in the works of working things through as to what's going to happen."

Boone Tavern owner Richard Walls, who has spent nearly three decades in the restaurant business, has been considering retirement for a few years, Gray said.

The process to join the two businesses was hatched within the past 72 hours. Boone Tavern alerted employees Friday about the changes. Both staffs will be retained in full.

Walls originally created the establishment as a reincarnation of the original restaurant with the same name, which operated between 1916 and 1975 at the corner of Seventh Street and Broadway **in what is now the Daniel Boone City Building, or city hall.

The Heidelberg, which Walls also owns, will remain unchanged. Walls was out of town and unavailable for comment.

Gray said Bleu recognizes the history of both the location and the restaurant and that few changes will be made.

"They know they have a place," he said, referring to the Tavern's rich past.

The Tavern's current location has seen its fair share of history. It housed the Athens Hotel in the early 20th century, and was later a shoe store. It's about four to five times the size of Bleu.

Bleu moved into its current location, 29 S. Eighth St., in mid-2008 under first-time owners Travis Tucker and Tina Patel. Their lease with The Tiger Hotel expires Feb. 29 because they did not "exercise the option" to extend it by Aug. 31, said Glyn Laverick, the hotel's owner, in an email.

Bleu's last day at its current location will be Feb. 26, according to its Facebook and Twitter pages. The restaurant is expected to reopen in early April.

The Oak Room, a restaurant fully owned and operated by the hotel, will take Bleu's place on the corner. The new eatery coincides with the hotel's renovation, scheduled to be completed in part by March 1.

Repeated attempts to contact Tucker were unsuccessful.

Gray said a disturbance involving 20 to 25 gunshots on Feb. 11 near the restaurant was not a factor with the decision to merge with Bleu, and that the timing was a coincidence.

"I just want people to know Boone Tavern is a great place to come and the new place is a great place to come and a little piece of Boone Tavern will remain," Gray said.

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