Essex Bar and Bistro planned for Bank of America Plaza in uptown Charlotte

Construction of a high-end restaurant in uptown Charlotte’s Bank of America Plaza building will start any day. The 5,000-square-foot restaurant, called Essex Bar and Bistro, is slated to open at 101 S. Tryon St. by the end of the summer, owner Pete Lloyd says. He will operate the 170-seat venture with business partner Erez Sukarchi. The duo owns eight restaurants in the Carolinas and Texas. That list includes Enso Asian Bistro and Suishi Bar, located in the EpiCentre complex uptown.

“It’s by far the best location we’ve had to date,” Lloyd says of the Essex Bar and Bistro site.

He notes he and Sukarchi pursued the Bank of America location for two years, knowing immediately they were interested in the site at the corner of Trade and Tryon streets. The location was formerly home to Merrill Lynch’s uptown offices. It will require extensive renovation to be transformed into Essex, Lloyd says. He estimates roughly $2 million will be invested in the project, but he says the high-profile location makes it worth that financial commitment.

“We’re really going to be the only restaurant that sits on that peak corner,” Lloyd says.

Essex will open onto the plaza. An existing fountain will be covered over. That will allow roughly three-quarters of the space to be enclosed in glass to create a dining room and patio space, Lloyd says. The restaurant will feature what Lloyd describes as “world cuisine.”

The menu is still under development, but he envisions a mix of offerings. That could mean Mediterranean food such as salads, lobster tacos, some Italian- or Mexican-inspired dishes and traditional fare, including steak. Prices will range from $10 to $15 for lunch, and up to $30 for dinner.

“The concept doesn’t exist here in Charlotte as far as the food,” Lloyd says. “I think what it does is open the door.” He says Essex’s design will incorporate a “chic, cool and modern” feel.

The goal is to build a high-end venue that is similar in feel to Enso, but a step up when it comes to elaborate decor and details. “We see it as being a super high volume lunch spot, and a chic dinner space as well,” Lloyd says. The venue will incorporate deep navy blues and silver, with dark wood floors. Fixtures with a 1940s-era feel and antique mirrors will mix with color-changing ceilings.

An open kitchen is planned and will be visible from a large bar. Booths will line one side of the dining area. Essex also will offer a 16-person private dining room.

Jones Baker of Dallas designed the space. RBA Group of Charlotte is the architect. Bradley Construction Group is the general contractor.

Mike Lucier, vice president of retail services for CBRE Group Inc., represented the building’s ownership. Carolyn Kellogg, with Kellogg Realty in Charlotte, represented the tenant.

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