For Chris Bower and Steve Mann, co-owners of both the Double Crown and now the Lazy Diamond, opening a second bar in downtown last December was inspired by more than monetary or booze-related motivations. According to Bower, the expansion was a move to bolster the quirky, often rough-around-the-edges essence of Asheville despite their hometown’s evolution into something more tourist-centric.
KEEPING ASHEVILLE WEIRD
“The purpose and inspiration for opening [the Lazy Diamond] was to stake a claim downtown for the type of bar that I like, which isn’t so fancy. … Asheville seems to be moving more towards a resort town,” Bower laments. “You can complain about things changing, or you can do something about it.”
The new bar, complete with its concert-poster wallpaper, beer cup light strings, behind-bar organ and other conversation-starting décor, conjures a dive bar atmosphere similar to that of the Double Crown, but the fresh interior “needs some years,” according to Bower, who prefers more broken-in surroundings. The Double Crown’s “worn-in look,” on the other hand, stems from its being a West Asheville watering hole since the ’60s.
“I definitely hope that they have their own individual personalities,” he says. The two bars have “similar roots, but different vibes. … The Double Crown has got the soul. The Lazy Diamond’s got the rock ‘n’ roll.”
The best part about the second bar, Bower says, is reaching locals who don’t frequent the Double Crown. Since opening, the Lazy Diamond’s doors have ushered in a group he describes as “an old-school, downtown crowd that don’t make it to the west side.”
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
“I’ve wanted that spot for 15 years — [it] has been on my radar forever. That was the first place I ever wanted to open up a bar in Asheville. It’s been all kinds of stuff over the years,” says Bower, adding that he used to sit outside his Chicken Alley apartment admiring the building’s out-of-the-way locale and ample outdoor space.
In fact, renovating the patio area is already atop Bowers’ list of 2015 goals. He is working with a landscape architect and city officials to finalize a design that would increase the Lazy Diamond’s capacity from 49 to 80-99.
“We’ve reached capacity quite a bit. Unfortunately we have to turn people away,” he says, explaining the demand for the patio. “It’s not uncommon to see a line, especially on the weekend.”
RISK AND REWARD
“We want to invest, and we want [Asheville] to change the way we would like it to change,” says Bowers, adding that he hopes to become a staple for service industry and other working class residents.
“It’s hard. It’s risky,” says Bowers of reinvesting all of the Double Crown’s profits into the new venture, “but I really felt like now was the time, and I’m willing to take that risk. I’ve lived in Asheville a long time — I’m used to toughing it out. So why not tough it out for a couple more years and be able to create something that I want to see here? I do feel fortunate that I have the opportunity and the skill set to do that.”
The Lazy Diamond is at 98A N. Lexington Ave. Visit facebook.com/TheLazyDiamondBar for more information.