COLUMBIA — A new tenant is checking in to the Tiger hotel.
Bleu, a wine bar and eatery, is slated to open sometime in January in the former location of Socket.
The restaurant is the brainchild of Travis Tucker, a longtime University Club employee. Last year, Tucker, 29, served as interim general manager of the upscale restaurant located at the Reynolds Alumni Center.
Bleu, which Tucker hopes will have “sort of a casual elegance,” will feature an eclectic menu of contemporary American cuisine, including a mix of tapas and more conventional “meat and potatoes” entrees.
Dishes will range in price from $4.50 for the cheapest appetizer to $30 for the priciest entree.
Mark Sulltrop will head up the kitchen; he comes off a 2½-year stint working for Les Bourgeois Winery and Bistro in Rocheport.
Sulltrop is taking chances at Bleu, trying adventurous dishes like baby back lamb ribs. Sulltrop’s style works well with Tucker, who said he’s also not afraid to go against the grain.
Tucker is hoping his restaurant will feature 19 wines on tap. Tucker said he only knows of one other restaurant in the state that has wine on tap.
The tap system, which is being custom-built in Florida, will be a visual showpiece of the restaurant. Done in glass, the natural hues of the wine will be visible.
Tucker explained that the tap will have a nitrogen displacement feature to prevent oxidation of the wine.
Although it will be just a couple of blocks from MU, Tucker believes most of his customers will be young professionals. He said he doesn’t think the market is saturated.
“Most places that you go on a Friday or Saturday night, you can’t just sit down,” he said.
Tucker hopes Bleu will have a warm and comfortable atmosphere.
“I want it to be very social because I think that people now are using dining as a form of entertainment as much as a way to get a meal,” he said.
John Ott, one of the owners of the Tiger, hopes Bleu will raise the profile of the historic building and help return it to its earlier grandeur.
Previous tenant Socket, a local telecommunications company, relocated to a larger space in north Columbia.
“Historically, it was a place that was a hub of activity,” Ott said. “We just think Bleu is an outstanding addition and complement to the whole thing.”
Paul Vernon, owner of Top 10 Wines and former owner of Cherry Street Wine Cellar, is very familiar with Columbia’s vino lovers. He said he thinks his business and Bleu will fill different niches.
“The wine pie in Columbia is a really good pie,” he said. “It’s just a small one.”