Business booms downtown

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 31, 2007

DEMOPOLIS &8212; The downtown district has seen a boost recently with the opening of new businesses to the area, including two new eateries.

The River Rat Bar and Grill is set to open this Saturday and Ejai&8217;s Soul Food restaurant opened its doors earlier this month along with the French Quarter Market, which opened last month.

Downtown merchants have steadily increased in recent years, said Ray Saliba owner of Napoleon&8217;s Restaurant, located on the downtown square said.

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Saliba said in the two years he has been located downtown, he has seen 12 to 14 businesses added to the area.

Emmanuel Thurman, owner of Ejai&8217;s said he planned for the restaurant for over a year before he opened on July 18 on North Strawberry Street. Thurman said, since then, business has been steady, and he has had a consistent lunch crowd. Ejai&8217;s serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and has a variety of soul food offerings.

Another new addition to the downtown area is the changeover of Escapades, a local bar, into the River Rat, a bar and grill on East Washington Street.

Singleton said he wants to create a business that has a family-friendly atmosphere.

Singleton said he is renovating the look and atmosphere of the bar, including removal of the black paint and redesigning with folk art. Jessie Lavon, an international folk artist from Demopolis, painted the river rat logo on the front window of the building and is painting murals of river rats along the walls inside the building.

Singleton said the bar and grill will be open from 3 p.m. until 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday.

The grill will serve short-order entrees, including barbecue, hamburgers and sandwiches.

Singleton said he is getting his staff together and working to get everything in line for their opening this weekend.

Singleton said he is appreciative of the community&8217;s input on his business.

Singleton said overall he wants his patrons to have a fun time when they visit the River Rat.

Singleton said the bar and grill will feature a house band every Saturday night and will bring in specialty bands throughout the month.

Although, Singleton would not release the name of his house band, he said the group, which is from Mississippi, will play a variety of music and features a recording artist.

Singleton said he will continue the tradition of pool tournaments each Thursday night and will keep all of the pool tables in use.