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Shug’s at Brooklyn South Square brings art, food, drink together

SALISBURY — From the moment people walk inside her eclectic bar, restaurant and music venue, Tiffany Day wants them to feel like they’ve been magically teleported somewhere else.

“I wanted it to have good vibes,” said Day, the co-owner and face of the gathering place. “I wanted people to come have an experience.”

With local artwork hanging on almost every wall, a bar pumping out creative craft cocktails and a kitchen serving up everything from reuben egg rolls to tofu wraps, Shug’s at Brooklyn South Square offers a blend of something unique in Salisbury.

“When I walk inside, it doesn’t feel like you’re in Salisbury,” said Daisy Lemke, the “Executive Intoxicologist” who manages the bar. “It feels like a destination, but here you are right on the corner of Lee and Fisher.”

Shug’s, located at 209 S. Lee St. in a circa 1901 renovated Victorian cottage, opened earlier this month after almost two years of planning and preparation. It inhabits the former home of Emma’s Restaurant, but has been transformed into something completely different.

Day’s uniquely specific vision for Shug’s was developed over years of traveling. Although she has a degree in social work and anthropology, she spent most of her 20s traversing the United States and Europe, visiting (and sometimes working in) plenty of taverns and tasty restaurants along the way.

“I think it came from going to a lot of places and wanting to bring a good community vibe to Salisbury, because we have a lot of great artists and creative nice people here,” said Day, who operates the business with the help of a Charlotte-based partner. “We already have a lot of great places, so this is to add to it and make one more.”

After checking out a few properties, Day found what she was looking for in the cozy Victorian Cottage.

“I did have a vision as soon as I walked in here,” Day said.

Before she leased the building, Day had one stipulation — she wanted to tear down the four main interior walls separating the space.

“There were four rooms and a hallway,” Day said. “It was very divided and cut up. If we couldn’t have opened it like this, it couldn’t have been the right space for what I wanted it to be.”

 The building’s owner, Allen Terry, agreed.

Day officially incorporated Shug’s as a limited liability company in the fall of 2019. Soon after, her makeshift construction crew of friends and family got to work taking down the walls, building the bar and stage and sprucing up the front porch and back patio. 

“We had family and friends who all had the right credentials and we were really able to do it in a community kind of way, which is a pretty awesome feeling,” Day said.

The extensive renovation process hit a snag at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only did they take a few months off during the initial lockdown, but the prices of needed materials soared.

“Plywood got up to about $90 a sheet,” said Shelby Stover, who spearheaded the interior renovations. “There were a couple projects in here that should’ve cost $200 to $250 that ended up costing well over $1,000.”

Working through the expensive, complicated construction was frustrating, but may have actually been a blessing in disguise.

“It definitely helped with the creative process because we had extra time to think, do and create,” Day said. “There were times when we didn’t work on it at all and it got really depressing. It was heartbreaking there for a while. Then when we got to start back, I felt like we were fueled by fire there for a little bit and became really creative with it.”

The airy inside of Shug’s is dominated by an all natural wood-finished bar. The bar, which is awaiting the installation of 24 beer taps, is surrounded by tables either made by Stover or purchased secondhand. One tabletop has already been covered with a painted piece by local artist Shannon Quick.

The bar and restaurant’s walls are also an exhibition space for local artists. The “contemporary aborignalist art” of Charlotte-based creator John Glenn is currently on display With price tags attached, each of Glenn’s creations are up for sale. Day said she plans on rotating in the work of artists like Glenn every few months.

Shug’s motto is “Eat Music, Drink Art,” and Chef Franky incorporates that theme into the food she cooks up in the kitchen. The items listed on Shug’s seasonally-shifting menu are all named after songs or musicians. Hungry guests can order a sliced beef and bleu cheese salad called “Tangled Up in Blue” or a chicken sandwich with feta, bruschetta and basil pesto dubbed the “Dixie Chicken.”

Dishes are almost exclusively made with locally-sourced ingredients, such as meat from Denton-based Roberts Family Farm and fruits and vegetables from Father and Son Produce. When shopping for ingredients at nearby markets, the chef has one rule: “You don’t get it if it’s not fresh.”

In addition to a number of gourmet grilled cheese options, gravy “flights” give diners the chance to try various types of homemade gravies.

The booze from behind the bar has even found its way into menu items, such as last week’s special “The Big Rock Candy Mountain,” a French Onion Soup made with New Sarum’s Yadkin River Lager. There’s also vegan options, an ode to Day’s personal diet.

Everything is made from scratch, so Day preaches patience and asks that patrons come prepared to spend a few hours. Although it may take a few minutes for food to arrive, Day promises it’s “worth the wait.” 

Although the cuisine and cocktails are a draw, Shug’s is, at its core, a live music venue. The restaurant and bar is currently hosting musicians every Friday and Saturday night, but has plans to eventually bring in artists on weeknights as well. Day said Shug’s doesn’t focus on a particular genre, but invites an eclectic mix of singers and songwriters to take its small indoor “plug and play” stage.

Since it opened earlier this month, Shug’s has been almost overwhelmed with eager diners and drinkers who have been anxiously awaiting its opening.

“We tried to have a soft opening and it didn’t end up being soft,” Day said. 

The restaurant and bar initially offered lunch, but Day and her staff made the decision to pull back to give her team ample recovery time. Sunday brunch, however, is still on.

The restaurant’s initial popularity, Day admits, is a good problem to have.

“People do come here for an escape and they come back to escape again,” Day said. “I love that.”

Shug’s is currently open from 3-11 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, 3 p.m.-midnight on Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. on Sunday. More information can be found online at www.facebook.com/shugsnc.

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