Acclaimed mixologist Gary Crunkleton is expanding his bar fiefdom again — this time with another location in Chapel Hill.
The focus, however, won't be high-end cocktails, like at his flagship operation The Crunkleton on Franklin Street.
Think instead of a community watering hole.
“This place won't be like (The Crunkleton) at all,” Crunkleton said.
Perhaps the name of the new venture — The Neighborhood Bar — best describes what he is thinking.
It’s a bar that was founded over pork.
Sam Suchow, the owner of the barbecue restaurant The Pig, will be a partner in The Neighborhood Bar. In fact, the bar will be right next to The Pig, and you’ll be able to order barbecue through a cubbyhole in the wall.
“I eat lunch up there often, and (Sam and I) started talking about the empty space next door, and we thought maybe we should put a bar back there,” Crunkleton said.
“We thought about what we would want to do, who we would we want to serve, and we thought a neighborhood bar would be nice. Somewhere you can get pitchers of beer. Not real cocktail heavy.”
That will be a departure from The Crunkleton, a dark and rustic cocktail bar with leather chairs, a vast display of liquors, a moose head on the wall and fine bourbon.
The website liquor.com included The Crunkleton in its 2017 list of the best bars in America, calling its owner “a cocktail-crafting wizard and always convivial host, re-imagining Southern favorites with a local accent.” Last year, Garden & Gun magazine named The Crunkleton one of the six best bourbon bars in the South.
The Neighborhood Bar will serve as a cheaper alternative. A place with at least eight beers on tap, domestic beers in bottles and even a couple of Slushie machines, he said. Though you will still be able to get a highball as well.
Its location, in a small shopping center at 603 Weaver Dairy Road that houses The Pig and the Bagel Bar, will also fill a niche in north Chapel Hill, he added.
"There are a lot of neighborhoods" around there, he said. "I live across the street. There really is no where to get a beer currently. I am hoping to create a place where people from north Chapel Hill can come get a beer after work."
This will be the third bar venture from Crunkleton.
Last year, he announced that he would be opening a bar in Charlotte. Crunkleton grew up in Denver, a small town north of Charlotte, and he had expressed a desire in the past to open something in that part of the state.
The Charlotte bar will open in October, and Crunkleton plans to rent an apartment in the city for the first six months the bar is open, he said. One of The Crunkleton's bar managers, Jonah Gibbs, will work at the Charlotte location.
After that, Crunkleton said he plans to split his time between the three bars, working one night a week at The Neighborhood Bar once it opens in August.
"I am really excited about it being near my house," he added.
When asked why he has decided to open more bars beyond the original Franklin Street location, Crunkleton laughed and said: "My kids are in private school now."