Chris Shepherd’s Underbelly Hospitality has opened three new restaurants since last July, but it won’t be opening a new bar. The James Beard Award-winning chef has canceled plans to open Everlong Bar & Hideaway.
First announced in November, Everlong would have occupied the former UB Preserv space. Named for a Foo Fighters song, plans for the concept included classic cocktails and a food menu based on popular items from Hay Merchant including Shepherd’s signature Korean goat and dumplings.
Shepherd tells CultureMap he had to go through the whole process of creating the bar’s concept to realize the timing simply wasn’t right.
“It was one of those things. I really love that space,” Shepherd says. “We could do a cool bar here with a killer kitchen. Everything’s set up for it. Do I really want to do that right now? No.”
The past six months have been a tumultuous time for Underbelly Hospitality. Since July, the hospitality group has opened three new concepts: Georgia James Tavern, a casual restaurant in downtown’s Market Square Tower; Underbelly Burger; and Wild Oats, a restaurant in the Houston Farmers Market devoted to Texas cuisine. At the same time, the company closed three of its popular establishments in UB Preserv, rotating concept restaurant One Fifth, and craft beer bar Hay Merchant.
Finally, luxurious steakhouse Georgia James is temporarily operating out of the former One Fifth space. In May, it will move to its new, permanent home in the Regent Square mixed-use development. Later this summer, it will be joined by Pastore, a new Italian-American restaurant inspired by One Fifth Red Sauce. With all of those existing commitments, the company decided it didn’t have the capacity to execute Everlong.
“It doesn’t make sense to extend,” he says. “It’s not that I’m not passionate about it. I don’t think it’s time for that right now. We have enough going on.”
Rather than open a new bar, Underbelly Hospitality will focus on the bar and lounge at the new Georgia James, which will occupy the building’s second floor and include an outdoor patio.
As for the space that would have become Everlong, Shepherd wants to sell the business — complete with all of its equipment — to a new operator. The space has received a series of renovations including ceilings, duct work, and soundproofing.
“For a young chef or restaurateur, that’s a good spot. It’s right in the middle of Montrose,” he says. “I want somebody who really wants to do their own thing for the first time. To take that space and run with it.”