It's billed as a speakeasy, and these days, Jeff's Bucket Shop is feeling like one of those bars from the Prohibition era — no liquor. But the eclectic bar and restaurant on Montford Drive is not closing. Known for it's karaoke, Cheers like atmosphere (the website boasts there are no strangers here) and basement party vibe, the shop has been in business since 2003. Owner Jeff Laria, said the lack of booze is temporary.
"We're working on getting our liquor license back," he said. "There's a contractual problem between me and a partner that we need to get ironed out." Laria wouldn't name his partner and the partner's name isn't listed on the business license.
According to Laria, when the renewal period for liquor licenses rolled around, the dispute was still going on. In North Carolina, all business owners must be listed on the license for a renewal to happen.
"We're still operating, we're just brown-bagging right now," he said. That means, you can bring your own beer and wine into the shop — which you've purchased elsewhere; hard liquor, however, is prohibited. "We're going to start booking the place for parties and that kind of thing."
Without the ability to sell alcohol, Laria said it's been a challenge. Jeff's Bucket Shop has been dry since last Thursday.
"It's definitely crippled our business, but luckily we have a pretty loyal fan base," he said. The business's Facebook page has about 400 friends. "They've continued to support us. But it's definitely been crippling and I emphasis crippling."
Because Laria and his wife, Michaele, are expecting legal actions, they weren't able to give the specifics about what happened with their partner. But Laria said, the shop is still open and operating. "We still do karaoke, Wednesday-Saturday. They can come down and sing their favorite songs. We're still open," he said.
According to Michaele, now is a good time to sample the menu at Jeff's Bucket Shop. "I make really good fried chicken," she said with a laugh. "We've always served food in the evening — not that we're known for our food. It's always been too packed at night, especially on the weekends, to serve food because you can't get through the crowd to sit down. But, I would always do a special at night that ran from 5 p.m. to about 8:30 p.m. then it turned into the bar scene. Now, you can eat whenever you like, and we're contemplating opening for lunch."
Michaele Laria said she's disappointed that someone would say the restaurant is closing.
"My husband started it and he had a good vision. We're a team. We look the same, and we act the same, too. The Bucket Shop is not as strong as it was, [losing the liquor license] hurt our business tremendously, but we'll survive. We have a wonderful landlord and a wonderful client base. Our people are singing along still and are very happy. Our employees are very supportive, and while they've had to cut back their hours and be patient, we'll come back. And we'll come back strong, and they will be taken care of. We're a family at the Bucket Shop, and our guests who come through that door are family as well. That's how we operate our business, and family sticks together. We'll get through this."
If you do head out to Jeff's Bucket Shop with your own hooch, there is a cooling fee of $5 for a six pack of beer and a $5 cork fee for the wine.