New owners take over downtown’s The Rookery

Westfield school grad Chad Evans fell in love with The Rookery, 543 Cherry St., in downtown Macon when he used to take his high school sweetheart there on dates.

“I’ve been in love with it ever since,” he said.

A few years ago, Evans said he started talking to the restaurant’s owner, Jim Kee, about buying the 33-year-old business — one of downtown’s oldest eateries.

Evans purchased The Rookery recently with his friend, Stratford grad, Wes Griffith.

The two took it over Tuesday.

“It’s in the geographic center of downtown,” Griffith said Thursday sitting in one of the booths in the dimly-lit pub. “It’s the history of the place,” he added about his decision to buy the business. “It’s been downtown all these years. People gather here, eat here ... it’s the birthplace of Bragg Jam.”

Evans, a University of Georgia grad who also studied at Oxford University in England, said he’s learned a lot about the restaurant business over the years working with his family, who founded Georgia Bob’s Barbecue Co. in Warner Robins. He also managed other restaurants.

The lead singer and songwriter in the local band, Hank Vegas, Evans also will provide entertainment on some nights at The Rookery.

Griffith said they’re planning on offering more live music.

As for anyone concerned that big changes are on the horizon at The Rookery because of its new ownership, Griffith said they need not worry.

“We look at this as an opportunity and a passing of the torch,” he said. “We want to continue to be a place where Mercer (University) students come and hang out. ... We want to say thank you to Mr. Kee for 33 years that he’s provided downtown with great food and spirits. We want to keep it going.”

Some changes going into effect starting next week, The Rookery will be a nonsmoking establishment.

“You can’t bring kids in,” Griffith said. “We want to get the families back in.”

The restaurant will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday for some light remodeling, including painting, extensive cleaning and new lighting. Griffith said they also plan to add a new additional outdoor patio — where smoking will be allowed — and a new facade.

Some menu changes will include “a new twist” on The Rookery burger; the additions of the Big O burger, named for famed Macon music legend, Otis Redding, and the Wet Willie burger, named for the Macon Southern rock band.

“We will pay homage to some of (Macon’s) greatest musicians and citizens,” Griffith said.

Of course there will be an Allman burger, named for the legendary the Allman Brothers Band. “That one will have mushrooms on it,” Griffith said smiling.

To contact writer Harold Goodridge, call 744-4382.