Jason Alley, Jay Bayer and Michele Jones — the team behind Flora, the restaurant coming soon to the former Balliceaux space — are already working on another project. This time it’s for Scott’s Addition, and this time, it’s even bigger.
Michele Jones, co-owner of Comfort and Pasture restaurants (and co-owner of Flora), said the new project is part-restaurant, part-brewery and part-arcade — and it was in the works before Flora.
“We’d been planning stuff for (the restaurant-brewery-arcade) when Balliceaux came up,” Jones said. “We found a place, we lost a place” in Scott’s Addition. The team is finalizing the lease on the actual space now, so there’s no location to share yet.
“It’s going to be a pretty big footprint — when it happens,” she said. And the spot will include some parking.
Jones said the impetus for planning the restaurant-brewery-arcade was simply fun.
“I just want to have some fun. I want our places to have fun,” she said. “This is a seriously fun place. A really great fun place with really great bar food.”
The restaurant/brewery/arcade will specialize in vintage arcade games (think Pac-Man), plus some “bigger fun” games, such as skee-ball.
Jones said that kids will be welcome in the space, too. “It’s going to have an adult vibe at night, but it’s going to be family-friendly,” she said. “Think about how people go to breweries and there’s nothing for the kids to do.”
Alley (Jones’ co-owner at Pasture and Comfort) will take charge of the “fun bar food,” and the cocktails — and brewery plan — will fall to Bayer (who’s co-owner of Saison and Saison Market).
Bayer, it turns out, is a certified brewer who studied at the Siebel Institute in Chicago.
“I went to pursue a career in brewing,” Bayer said. “That was my original plan in the restaurant industry. I learned all the successful, theoretical stuff on how to run a brewery.”
Bayer ended up being a restaurateur, but never lost his passion for brewing. He had been looking for the right opportunity to get back into it.
Jones said the lease for the space should be finalized soon and the team hopes to have the Scott’s Addition spot open this fall.
Meanwhile, the trio is charging forward with Flora in the former Balliceaux space at 203 N. Lombardy St. in the Fan District (Balliceaux closed on Jan. 8) — and it should open in a few weeks.
“It’s such a cool space,” Jones said of the former Balliceaux. “We want to make sure we’re doing it justice.” Jones said they’re looking at expanding both bars in the space and adding seating to the backroom.
Flora will specialize in Mexican cuisine, specifically food from the Mexican state of Oaxaca, which is known for its mole sauce. Pasture’s chef de cuisine, Sergio Gomez, will take on that role at Flora.
Bayer is also fleshing out the cocktail program for Flora, which will be heavy on mezcal (which is largely produced in Oaxaca) and rhum agricole (similar to its rum cousins, but the sugar cane is processed differently) spirits.
“I’ve been working really hard and making some good connections for mezcal and rhum and networking with the brand representatives and Virginia ABC,” Bayer said. “The rabbit hole that is mezcal is wide and deep — I want to be able to spread the love.”
As for the backroom at Flora, which was a popular music venue when it was Balliceaux, Bayer said he’s brought on Richmond musician Shannon Cleary to do the booking.
Live music will be a part of the room, and possibly comedy improv shows.
“We want to give the room more of an opportunity,” Bayer said. “There will also be some educational nerdiness that makes sense for the room.”
Flora should open in early March and will start with dinner and late-night only.
As for Jones and Alley’s other (other) project — Sur Taco and Sandwich inside the newly opened Champion Brewing at 401 E. Grace St. — that should open in a few weeks, too. They’re just waiting on the construction to finish.