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The Jefferson Inn will open for guests on Nov. 1, and the restaurant, bar and patio will open early next year.
That's what owner Curtis Dean and General Manager Dan Fix told an estimated 40 members of the Southern Pines Business Association Wednesday during an after-hours meeting at the historic downtown inn on New Hampshire Avenue.
Members of the association mingled and drank wine in a room lit by portable floodlights. With broken glass in the front door, holes in the ceiling and walls and unfinished spots everywhere, it was clear that much more work remains to be done.
Nevertheless, it's obvious that the town is excited to have a renaissance at one of its oldest and favorite buildings. The business association was planning on maybe 15 people showing up, but the opportunity to tour the old building and survey the changes and progress attracted many more.
"The buzz on the street is incredible," Fix said.
Claudia Miller, president of the business association, thanked Dean for allowing its members to be the first to meet in the building since Dean took over ownership.
"It is so tremendous to have this facility back in our town," she said. "It will mean so much to our businesses. ... He's taken something that was about to be knocked down as far as we can tell and made it into something beautiful."
Dean, who owns a company called Dean Ventures in Raleigh, bought the Jefferson in August 2005. He has been in real estate in Raleigh and Durham for 18 years.
He said at the time of the purchase that he hoped the hotel would reopen in early 2006.
He said Wednesday that had he known the extent of the project, he may have gone running in the opposite direction.
The renovation will wind up costing $2.5 million, he said.
However, he said that he is pleased with the progress and is looking forward to opening the business. He welcomed everyone and said that he was shocked at the turnout.
"It speaks to the connection this building has to the community," he said.
Dean said he has to open the hotel on Nov. 1 if possible because he has booked singer Edwin McCain and his band to stay at the hotel while they are in town to perform at the Sunrise Theater.
"If I don't have it open, I'm going to be buying 10 hotel rooms," he said.
He announced to applause that the courtyard will open along with the restaurant and bar.
"I heard a rumor that it wasn't going to be open, and I got mad at myself," he joked.
Dean has hired Fix to run the restaurant and bar. For the past 10 years, Fix has run the Outback Steakhouse in Southern Pines.
Fix said the courtyard will feature live music, if only a person with an acoustic guitar. The idea is to avoid music so loud that it drowns out conversation, Fix said. He said he remembered hanging out in the courtyard under a previous owner and having a blast. He wants that atmosphere to return.
"There is just going to be a guy in a corner with an acoustic guitar," he said. "No amplifier."
When the hotel opens in November, only two rooms downstairs will be in use: the lobby and the room immediately to its right. Eventually, the downstairs will be as many remember it.
The top two floors will be quite different.
Where 22 small rooms once were, there will be 15 larger rooms. Dean said the previous owner had demolished many of the rooms upstairs without regard to historic preservation.
The rooms are almost complete. During a tour through the top two floors, the group marveled at the suites and large bathrooms.
Once the restaurant opens, Fix said he intended to use the lessons he learned at Outback. It should open during the first three months of next year, he said.
"Great food at a quality price," he said. "You've got to start with the locals. The golfers may come. But the people who live here are who we want to take care of."
Matthew Moriarty may be reached at 693-2479 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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