A few emails and calls later, here’s what I think is going on with the Bleu/Boone Tavern situation.
Bleu Restaurant’s lease was up and the Tiger Hotel folks wanted the space for themselves anyway – for The Oak Room. Bleu’s relationship with Tiger Hotel was already strained and they’d been conducting their catering operations off-site for some time due to kitchen space constraints. Desperate for more room and the very real prospect of homelessness in the near future, they approached Dick Walls of Boone Tavern late last week. Dick’s been eyeing retirement for a while, the restaurant isn’t the draw it once was and here’s someone willing to pay his lease for him. No-brainer. The two parties quickly worked out a sublease agreement (which seems to still be of the unsigned variety at this point) and now it’s off to the races for Bleu, who will take over the lease on March 1 and try to open there as soon as possible. Inventory has to be moved out and in, health inspections need to take place, liquor licenses must be handled, etc. It’s an aggressive timeline. (In that vein, do the bartenders at Bleu a favor and go drink there this weekend. What they don’t sell, they carry up to Walnut Street, so you might get a generous pour or two.)
So Boone Tavern will cease to be (though could remain in some form…ie, calling the bar/lounge area “Boone Tavern”). Whatever the aesthetic and logistical challenges the move poses, the advantages for Bleu are clear: A lovely patio, more seating and a bigger kitchen from which to run their catering side. Also, don’t overlook the fact that Boone Tavern, while a large space, is fairly modular, so Bleu could close off significant sections of the restaurant without much trouble. That may be what they’re planning to do. What remains to be seen is what happens to the Boone Tavern staff who, with Dick on vacation, seem highly (and understandably) confused.
That’s it for now. If I hear more or am set straight on anything – not unlikely given how mum the principals have been – I’ll post here.