Depending on when you stop by the Short North, you’re bound to find two vastly different worlds. During the day, it’s busy with traffic, pedestrians walking the sidewalks and periodically checking out the stores, and plenty of eaters gearing up to chow down on the latest of offerings at one of the many restaurants in the area. For the most part, it’s quiet and peaceful—we won’t talk about the pedal wagons and brunchers starting their days early.
On the other hand, there’s the nightlife side of the Short North. Storefronts close up for the day and bars and nightclubs begin the evening with drink specials, elevated bar food, and the occasional themed night. The cars on the road now are taxis, Ubers, and Lyfts, and the pedestrians on the sidewalks are looking for more than just a cute outfit from a boutique—they are looking for entertainment and drinks.
It’s this growing group in the city that Brian Swanson, owner of Bristol Republic, is hoping to tap into with his latest country-themed restaurant and bar that recently opened in late-April.
And with more than 100 different bourbons to choose from, live entertainment acts slotted Thursday to Sunday, and a kitchen staff smoking meats courtesy of training from Smoked On High, Bristol Republic stands as a safe bet (and shorter drive) as a way to channel all the organized and fun chaos that is Nashville right here in The Bus.
(614) caught up with Swanson to see what’s going on in Bristol, and just why he decided to throw a country-themed venue in the heart of the Short North.
(614): Nashville seems to play a heavy influence with Bristol. What do you love so much about that city?
BS: It’s just such a fun city to visit. It has that fun and laid-back vibe that a lot of people from this area enjoy. It’s very welcoming and it has a good feel to it.
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It also seems like Nashville is a pretty hot spot for bachelor and bachelorette parties.
Yeah and we’ve already gotten lots and lots and lots of requests for those bachelor and bachelorette parties. I think that that’s already proving that to be correct.
So it sounds like you’re really trying to tap into that wild nightlife side of Nashville?
We want to be more than that, you know. Our food is fantastic. We’re not just a party bar. We teamed up with Max at Smoked On High so we have competition quality barbeque. The food is amazing; we have an amazing culinary team here. We smoke all our meats in house daily, and it’s all made from scratch. As far as bourbon goes, we’ve got some of the rarest bourbons you can get so we have a fantastic bourbon list. And the space is as inviting during happy hour, dinner, brunch as it is for late night too. When our brunch starts, we will have live music on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 3 p.m. with one-man acoustic shows. We’ve got quality talent, we’ve got fantastic food, and we’ve got a great space, so it’s more than just the wild side of Nashville.
How did the partnership with Smoked On High come about?[Max] just has great reviews! And then their food is just fantastic. I knew I was going to do this concept a year and half ago so I went to some barbeque around town—because you know, we have a lot of great barbeque around town—and I stopped in Smoked On High, loved the food, met Max and loved his story. He’s a great guy, awesome to work with, tons of energy, so I really just wanted to partner with him. And it’s not only just his great food, he’s a great guy.
Did you source a team from Smoked On High, or did your team go through a training process?
I actually have a great executive chef who’s spent some time at the Cosmopolitan in Vegas and he was most recently executive chef at Jeff Ruby’s so he’s got great quality and experience. I put him with Max and Max trained him on his Smoked On High process. He went out and found our own staff and culinary team, and Max comes in and does quality control, shows them how to carve the meat, and answers any questions they might have about barbecue…. Our menu is a little different than your traditional barbeque restaurant, and even different than Smoked On High where he has his traditional barbeque menu items. We’ve got a very diverse menu with burgers, apps, salads, shareables, and desserts. So we’ve kind of expanded on Max’s menu.
And is it also a team collaboration on sourcing all the bourbon?
It’s a team effort. We have a great bar staff and management here. We all bring a little bourbon knowledge to the table, and I did a partnership with Watershed where we did our own private label, single-barrel bourbon which has sold very, very well for us. We’ve got a few people on our staff who drive all around to stores in Cincinnati, Dayton, and Cleveland to try and get these rare bottles.
That’s quite the local powerhouse with Watershed and Smoked On High inside a local business!
I think this lends itself to that Nashville vibe where everyone is just about community, being local, and teaming up to do cool stuff. That’s what I wanted to do here. I wanted everyone to be involved in this and it to feel like a community spot.
Bristol Republic is located on 1124 N High St. For hours, the menu, and upcoming performers, check out bristolrepublic.com.