The Pit preparing for Tuesday opening

Nov. 23, 2013 @ 08:52 AM

Cookers were smoking in the back, restaurant staff was learning about wine in a sunny dining room near the front and deliveries were coming in from off the street outside.

Work was going on behind the scenes Friday to make sure The Pit restaurant would be ready to open on Tuesday in a redeveloped former soda and water bottling plant at 321 W. Geer St., across the road from Motorco Music Hall.

The restaurant will be the first in Durham for the Raleigh-based restaurant, bar and coffee shop group Empire Eats. There are five restaurants in the group in Raleigh, including the original location of The Pit. The company’s founder, Greg Hatem, is also a real estate developer and businessman.

“We don’t use gas cookers – all wood and charcoal,” Hatem said Friday, as he stood in front of a front kitchen of the restaurant where two cookers are set up in view of the main dining room.

There are more cookers outside in a back area that Hatem said once was used for delivery and unloading when the bottling plant was operating. He said the restaurant can have up to 10 of the cookers there. They will be used for catering food preparation.

The dining rooms have sealed exposed, painted brick, concrete floors and exposed ceilings with wooden rafters. The bottling plant had sloping floors that made the redevelopment a challenge, Hatem said, so they had to fill in some areas of the floor and cut out others.

A  second floor and rooftop deck with views of the downtown skyline are planned, but that is still under construction. Hatem estimated it will be another month to six weeks before the second floor seating area, kitchen and rooftop deck are open.

Hatem said Friday that the furniture was just coming in, artwork was going up on the walls and the bar was being stocked.

The restaurant is opening on Tuesday and will take reservations. It will also be open on Thanksgiving Day for lunch from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Hatem said he’s leased a parking lot nearby that previously housed Amex Motor Cars for the restaurant.

“We’re excited about it,” Hatem said of the opening. “We’re going to be ready for whatever comes in the door.”