[Spotlights] They Own the Night
Business partners run six downtown bars that cater to various demographics.
Dirk Farrow and Doug Taylor don’t run bars for fun, as so many bar owners do. Bars are their business. The onetime Georgia Tech fraternity brothers have built an entertainment empire on downtown’s Church Street, operating five contiguous nightspots that cater to everyone from baby boomers to barely legals.
In September, the Church Street
Entertainment partners opened their sixth venue, a spacious, Mediterranean-style indoor/outdoor restaurant-bar two blocks north of their home base. Ember, which occupies the former Kate O’Brien’s Irish Pub site on Central Boulevard, is Farrow and Taylor’s foray into the business-lunch and after-work professional markets. It’s also a nod to their maturing years—Farrow, 44, of Windermere, and Taylor, 42, a Dr. Phillips resident, wanted to run a bar that reflected their current tastes and lifestyles.
“The beauty of Ember is 7,600 square feet outdoors,” says Taylor. “It’s a patio bar, but bigger.”
Adds Farrow: “It’s upscale but not pretentious.”
Covering various demographics seems to be the key to their success. In 1992, they opened Chillers, a frozen daiquiri bar, in a cozy space on Church Street. The partners exported the concept to other cities, but eventually sold all but the Orlando location.
On the same day in 1999, they opened Big Belly Brewery, a chug-a-lug saloon next to Chillers, and Latitudes, an open-air rooftop hangout outlined by tiki torches. Chillers and Big Belly get a twentysomething crowd, while Latitudes draws a 25 to 40 clientele, says Taylor. Two years later, the partners opened Antigua, a dance club drawing 18- to 30-year-olds. Tucked behind their Church Street-front nightspots is their martini bar, Tryst, which opened last year and attracts a more affluent demographic. The bars employ 180 people among them, says Taylor.
The partners say they expect to open a seventh bar, next to Ember, within nine months. And more concepts will follow, possibly in the suburbs or other cities, says Farrow.