Iconic Lexington restaurant Dudley's will move downtown to Short Street later this year after renovating its new home to allow more private dining and a rooftop garden.
The current location — in Dudley Square, at Maxwell and Mill streets — will close Oct. 31, after 28 years, and owner Debbie Long hopes to reopen across from Cheapside Park as early as Dec. 1.
The new building, 267 West Short Street, is in a burgeoning section of downtown, across from the historic Cheapside Bar and Grill and next to the newly opened Pulse nightclub. Also nearby are Metropol, The Rosebud and Silks Lounge, Bluegrass Tavern and the soon-to-open Skybar.
"It's about being in the center of downtown," Long said.
There's also a movement afoot to close nearby Mill Street between Main and Short to make a pedestrian mall similar to Cheapside, where throngs gather for Thursday Night Live and the Lexington Farmers Market on Saturdays.
"We love the energy that's going on downtown," Long said.
Dudley's will occupy the first and second floors of its new building, and the head of the design construction firm that is handling the renovation will be on the third.
The building, built in the late 1800s, already boasts high ceilings, "a beautiful staircase" and more, she said.
She hopes to add "some big, beautiful doors that will open up on the sidewalk for sidewalk dining."
Long declined to say how much the renovations will cost.
The restaurant's kitchen will be on the first floor, unlike the current location, where it's in the basement.
"That'll be thrilling to my employees," Long said.
The second floor will be dedicated to private dining rooms that would handle groups of 20 to 70 people. The rooftop garden will include space for dining and perhaps cocktails for functions, she said.
Overall, though, the restaurant will not be much larger than the current location, she said.
"The only thing we're gaining is more private dining."
The new tenant at Dudley's current location in Dudley Square also will be a locally owned and operated restaurant, building owner Bobby Freisberg said.
He wouldn't say who but denied a rumor that it would be an outpost of Malone's.
"I don't know where those rumors came from," he said.
The entire space will be renovated, and he said he hopes to disclose the new tenant by Nov. 1.
He and Long both declined to discuss what compelled Dudley's to move, although Long said, "My landlord and I could not agree on a favorable lease for either of us."
Long and several partners bought the Short Street building on Monday, although she remains the sole owner of Dudley's. The restaurant will pay rent to the group.
She declined to disclose the purchase price of the building.
The building was once the home of law offices; the last occupant, who also owned the building, is moving next door, Long said.
Just as the new building will recall times past, so will the menu at Dudley's during its final four months at its current location.
Long said the restaurant is bringing back favorites that have disappeared from the menu over the years. Among them are green chile wontons, the chicken chalupa and the chicken Winslow salad. Winslow was the middle name of Dr. Benjamin Dudley, for whom the restaurant was named.
As for the new menu, "it will definitely be a reinvent," she said. "We're going to keep a little old and a lot of new."