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RESTAURANT ROUNDUP: Brooks Tavern to feature late night dining

Mark and Cindy Johnson Lowe are opening Brooks Tavern in the historic Brooks Building at 142 Third Avenue West. Mark and Cindy Johnson Lowe are opening Brooks Tavern in the historic Brooks Building at 142 Third Avenue West.

Mark Lowe had lost his wife to ALS and retired from the hotel management business when he met and fell in love with Cindy Johnson.

One day she posed a question that would reshape his life again.
“She said, ‘What would you do if you knew you could not fail?’ I said, ‘I’ve always wanted to own my own restaurant.’”
If things work out, Mark and Cindy might be saying that the rest was history, and in a historic building at that.
A contractor is busy at work now renovating the space in the Brooks Building, which was built around 1925 and has been owned by the Shipman family since 1943. (County tax records date the building to 1917.)
Sheldon Edgar Shipman, the father of Clifton Shipman and grandfather of Tommy Shipman, bought the property 74 years ago. Built with five apartments on the second floor, the 14,000-square-foot building on Third Avenue West has three ground-floor storefronts that have been home to Clifton’s Restaurant, the Smoke Shop, American Drug, Custom TV & Radio Service, the Next to New Shop, Office Equipment Service Co., Once Upon a Sign and the Henderson County Republican Party.
“We’re trying to go back with that 1925 feel,” he said.
After finding more damage than he expected, Lowe said he’s regrouped and worked with the health department and fire department on inspections. The contractor has pulled off walls to expose the brick interior. He’s also added a new roof.
“We started looking at restaurant franchises and things a year and a half ago and just decided to do our own thing,” he said.
Lowe calls the menu gastro-pub and promises fresh ingredients for Angus burgers, fresh trout from Sunburst farms.
“We’ll have sandwiches that nobody here in town is really doing,” he said. “Just stuff where people are going, ‘Wow this is something different.’”
He’s hired a chef who is developing the menu.
“I’m trying to not even have a freezer in the restaurant if I can get away with it,” he said. “I’m trying to make it fresh as I can.”

“We’re doing 30 to 35 menu items — just all new stuff. We’re doing something a little bit different. We’ll have 10 beers on tap. Some national brands and craft beer. We’ll have about 40 in bottles or cans. We’ll have full wine service and of course full liquor.”
Though he’s not set them exactly yet, food and beverage prices “will be in line with anybody else around town,” he said.
The tavern will seat about 40 diners and will feature live music on Friday and Saturday nights and for Sunday brunch.
He plans on hitting a niche, too, without much competition downtown — late night hours with the kitchen still open. He plans to be open seven days a week, 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday and “11 to 2ish” on weekends.
“If someone is going to make the effort to come in at 11 o’clock or 1 a.m. I want them to get the same level of service and quality of service that someone that walks in at 2 in the afternoon is going to get,” he said.
He expects he’ll need to hire 22 to 28 people.
“I want Joe the farmer to be able come in and grab a sand or a burger and a couple of beers and walk out feeling good,” he said. “We may not be the largest place in town but we want to be the best.”