Saturday, August 19, 2000

Restaurateur adding to list

Jeff Ruby buys Charley's site

By Lisa Biank Fasig
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Restaurateur Jeff Ruby has acquired the defunct Charley's Oyster Bar and Grill in Montgomery, adding what he calls the “fourth limb” to his body of restaurant businesses.

        The outspoken owner of the Precinct, the Waterfront and Jeff Ruby's said he paid about $750,000 for the upscale restaurant in an auction Thursday at the Hamilton County Courthouse. He plans to fully renovate the site and reopen it as a steakhouse with an Italian influence by as early as April, the month of his birthday.

        “This will be the fourth leg of the bar stool,” said Mr. Ruby, who opened his namesake restaurant downtown less than a year ago. “I've had my eyes on that location about four or five years.”

        The move is an uptick in Mr. Ruby's aggressive restaurant schedule. Since opening the Precinct in Columbia Tusculum in 1981, he's added the Waterfront to Covington in 1986, Jeff Ruby's in September 1999 and Rumba nightclub in April. Some other clubs and an Italian restaurant, Spazzi's, came and went.

        He also is exploring Columbus for sites to build a Precinct or a Jeff Ruby's.

        “I enjoy the thrill of the hunt more than sitting down to the feast that follows,” Mr. Ruby said. “It just keeps me going.”

        A common denominator among Mr. Ruby's restaurants is they specialize in thick expensive steaks — a trademark along with his gold jewelry and professional athlete friends. But the New Jersey-born entrepreneur dismissed questions about restaurant cannibalization.

        He said the Waterfront has experienced an 11 percent increase in sales so far this year over last year, despite Jeff Ruby's opening. Sales at the Precinct are up 6 percent.

        Sales at Jeff Ruby's have more than doubled expectations, he said, but he declined to specify sales amounts.

        Besides, he said, the new location, on Montgomery Road across from Chester's Road House, is in a different part of town from the other three restaurants.

        The new restaurant will be called Tony and Jimmy's, after executive chef Jimmy Gibson and Precinct manager Tony Ricci. Mr. Ruby wanted to include the name of the Waterfront's manager, Charlie Bledsoe, but feared his customers would confuse ownership of the new and old places.

        Along with Mr. Ruby's high-profile friendships, he is known to have high-profile investors, including Carl Lindner, Pete Rose and Boomer Esiason. But Mr. Ruby said he's still thinking of investors for the latest venture.

        “If any of my good customers are interested, they can call me,” he said.


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