Serial entrepreneur Ric Payne likens his latest co-creation, Burnside Inn, to a fun house.
"You don't know what's coming next," said Payne of the three-story bar, lounge, and live entertainment spot set to open Sunday at 314 Massachusetts Ave., in a skinny building that previously housed a hair salon and apartments.
The eclectic spot is designed to offer something comfortable but fresh to the Mass Ave cultural district. It features a small stage fronted by a recreation of the gates at Elvis Presley's Graceland estate; framed photos throughout of Salvador Dali, the Sundance Kid and other folks sporting memorable facial hair; a drink menu that pushes mules (a ginger beer-anchored adult beverage); and wings and ice cream provided by a food truck in the back parking lot (but still delivered to your table).
Burnside Inn is named for Liberty, Indiana's favorite son, Civil War Gen. Ambrose Burnside. Although notable as a military man, inventor and politician, Burnside is best remembered today for his distinctive facial hair, which led to the term "sideburns."
Burnside Inn is the latest project from Payne and Will Howe, whose previous collaborations including shooting a film, "Back Home Again," that included appearances by Rik Smits and Jim Nabors. More apropos to their current venture: They co-founded and own the Indianapolis-based Wild Beaver Saloon chain.
For the PBS show “Everyday Edisons,” they showcased their "Mister Steamy" invention—a dryer ball they designed to get wrinkles out of clothes.
"This is the 16th or 17th thing we've done together," said Payne.
Also involved in the project is Kerry Payne, Ric's brother, who also is an owner of Wild Beaver Saloon. Jill Kelly Howe, Will's wife and a costume designer at Beef & Boards Dinner Theater, will be handling the entertainment booking.
The building offers 800 square feet per floor. “It’s not huge. So we don’t need 500 people here. We need 125 to rotate in and out," Payne said.
The first floor, with its marble-topped bar and upright piano, is designed to evoke the spirit of New York watering holes. Afternoons will feature what Howe calls "hotel coffee" with pastries and free wi-fi.
The second and third floor were recently living space, and an effort has been made to maintain the homey feel with bold wallpaper, one-of-a-kind seating and a bar space that doesn’t try to hide its former role as a kitchen.
The second floor is home to the stage, for which Jill Kelly Howe—whose talents include ukulele playing—will be hosting a Wednesday open stage.
“I think people are still looking for something other than standing around with a drink in their hand,” Will Howe said.
“The growth around his area is mind-boggling,” added Payne. “It’s about finding our niche.”
Burnside is leasing the building. Payne and Howe declined to reveal the cost of renovating the space.