Emerald City owners: Closure will 'get stress out of our lives'
CHAMPAIGN — The owners of Emerald City Lounge decided to close the nightspot last week for "quality of life" reasons, co-owner Keith Cameron Smith said Monday.
Smith and Tim Denoyer opened the lounge at 118 N. First St., C, in July 2010, and closed it Thursday, stating on Facebook they did so "with a heavy heart."
"It was always our dream or goal to have a nicer martini/music lounge," Smith said Monday. "It's just time for us personally to get out of the bar business and get the stress out of our lives."
Smith noted that he operates another business, Cameron's Catering, and Denoyer has a full-time job with Amdocs Ltd. They also have rental properties.
"We've got a lot going on," Smith said.
Smith said he will continue to operate Cameron's Catering from that location, but does not plan to lease the lounge space to another operator because he's not interested in joint tenancy with another business.
Selling the 5,000-square-foot building is a possibility, he said.
"People have expressed interest in the space. I'm not sure what's going to happen. We had the building for sale at one point. For the right offer, we would sell," he said.
The building was previously the home of Jackson's Ribs and Tips restaurant.
At Emerald City, Smith said he and Denoyer strove to operate a business "that was welcoming to all, regardless of race, gender, sexual preference — a place where everyone, from 19 to 69, could come and be comfortable, and we did that."
He said the lounge became profitable in its second year and continued to make money.
But Smith said he felt the business would have done better "on the other side of the tracks" in downtown Champaign.
"It's a tough location," he said of the North First Street location. "There are no other businesses on the block in the food and entertainment business. ... There's a lot more foot traffic in downtown Champaign."
Smith said he bought the building in 2009 because he needed a location for his catering business. The bar was an afterthought, he said, figuring "we've got the space, let's use it."
Smith said the catering business is his passion.
"I've been in it for 30 years. It's what I love and what I'll continue to do," he said.
Smith said when Emerald City Lounge closed, it employed eight part-time workers. They'll continue to work in the catering business, he said, but some may need more money and will seek other jobs.