Nearly two months after closing the Whiskey in downtown Durham, owner Rhys Botica has rebranded the space with a new name and a smoke-free, neighborhood-friendly focus.
Botica and partner Ben Fletcher reopened the space Monday at 347 W. Main St. as the Criterion.
“We are going to focus on craft beer from all parts of the world,” along with serving wine and liquor, Botica said, “and try to be a neighborhood bar.”
On Aug. 2, Botica closed the 5-year-old Whiskey, a high-end cocktail and cigar bar and one of the last remaining clubs where people could still smoke cigarettes inside.
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Starting today, Criterion and its renovated space will be open Monday through Sunday from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Criterion will offer 16 draft beers and six to 10 brands in bottles.
Botica said he replaced the lights, built booths and added antique bar fixtures with a goal to create a 1930s big-city, neighborhood bar feel.
“It’s changed markedly,” Botica said. “The only thing is left is the bar itself.”
Whiskey was a beautiful bar, he said, but the upscale, cigar and cocktail bar concept created some challenges. Over the years, the quality cocktail idea has been adopted by many other businesses and the lingering cigar and cigarette smoke prevented some from visiting.
“It was like treading water for five years,” Botica said.