UPDATE: Charlie Hodge reports that Ole Shakey’s reopens at 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22.
The French Broad River was still riding a little high, and the water was still muddy from recent rain, but the sun was beaming through the trees on Oct. 12 as Paul Martin and Charlie Hodge signed the papers that transferred ownership of Ole Shakey’s bar.
Once called the Hot Spot, the tiny bar next to the Bywater on Riverside Drive has been a longstanding institution in the local biker community. It has developed a reputation as a place to grab a cold, cheap beer in the daytime and sit by the river while the jukebox cranks out country classics. That tradition will continue, but Martin is passing the torch of ownership to Hodge, owner of downtown craft cocktail bar Sovereign Remedies.
“We got an opportunity to take on this place,” says Hodge, “and even though Sovereign is only a year old, this space is absolutely beautiful and it’s kind of this other yin to the yang of what Sovereign is.” In addition to Sovereign Remedies, Hodge opened bars across the West Coast, including the famed Clyde Common in Portland, Ore., before relocating to Asheville where he helped get cocktail programs off the ground at both Chestnut and The Bull & Beggar.
“This place is a lot more laid back. It’s just about sitting by the river,” Hodge says. “I think there is a great opportunity to have a great drink here, but by no means is it going to be a high-end craft cocktail bar. ”
Hodge says he doesn’t plan to change much. The name will stay the same as will the indoor decor of neon lights and old posters. The astroturf patio, root-ball course, pool tables, dart boards and outdoor stage will also stick around. “Paul has done so much work in making this perfect and beautiful, I don’t want to change anything. The only thing I want to do is create more of a nightlife here,” he says.
The bar has been closing before 10 p.m., but as Hodge points out, “When the sun goes down, there’s still a good reason to come out here, and I think we can do that with cheap beer and honest cocktails.” The change in hours will require the bar to become a private members-only club, however, like its neighbor, The Bywater.
Hodge plans to leave it up to the existing staff to decide whether they want to remain under the new ownership. “There are two lovely ladies that have been here and been a part of this for a while, and they are really fantastic,” he says. “We’ve asked if they’d like to stay on, and we’re going to see if that will work out with the new hours and scheduling for them.
“It is an honor to us that this place has been around for a very long time,” Hodge continues. “It is a real dive bar, and you can’t reinvent that; it has to have a legacy. I don’t want to pretend and create a different name for it when it already is what it is.”
Hodge assumes full ownership on Thursday, Oct. 15, and the bar will close until permitting has been worked out with Alcoholic Beverage Control, a process that can take up to two weeks. When asked how soon he plans to be open for business, Hodge quickly responds, “As soon as possible.”