Coliseum Plaza, on the corner of Rose Street and Euclid Avenue across from the University of Kentucky, is getting a major makeover. Gourmet burger chain BurgerFi is coming, Sweet Mango and Campus Café are gone, and Coffea is leaving.
The building, bought by Phil and Lee Greer last year for almost $1.9 million, has been a cornerstone of campus life for many people, and on Thursday night, when Coffea announced on Facebook that it would be closing Sunday evening, the outpouring of dismay was swift.
Coffea manager Will Hurst said the news came abruptly Thursday from the coffee shop’s owner, David Lee.
“It’s a small-business thing, and small businesses change,” Hurst said Friday. “I understand the Greers are attempting to do their thing and they are looking at it from a business point of view, but a lot of times that doesn’t line up with the cultural aspect.”
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The coffee shop owner is moving, and “and it’s been bleeding money for the last year or so,” Hurst said of the business. “It’s just unfortunate it happens now.”
Lee Greer said the decision to close came solely from Coffea’s owner.
“I don’t really know the details of why they are closing. I thought they were doing well. If the tenant wants to stay, we want them to,” Greer said Friday. “I’d love for them to stay … then I’d have a full building with complementary uses. But we totally understand that they want to move on.”
Burgerfi will take some of the Coffea space, Greer said, “and we’ll be looking for another tenant.”
Bangkok House owner Pom Bunchatheeravate said Friday: “We staying for now, but we’re not sure yet. Our lease is for three more years.”
Coliseum Liquors owner Shirish Patel said he plans on staying.
“We should be there 12 to 15 more years,” Patel said. “We have a nice location, honestly, and we’re doing good business, and people love our store.”
Sweet Mango, an ice cream shop, closed last year, and Campus Café closed at the beginning of June.
Renovation on the building is scheduled to start in a few weeks; BurgerFi, which also has a restaurant on Rojay Drive, will open about Sept. 1.
BurgerFi president David Rodriguez said Friday that he’s excited to bring its combination of all-natural burgers and gourmet shakes to the campus.
“UK, we’re passionate about it,” he said. “I’m from Lexington, and campus and the downtown area are vital for us.”
The menu will be the same as the one on Rojay, with “some different specials for campus,” he said. “We’re definitely going to embrace the university and the student population down there.”
The restaurant will have a distinctive look that retains some of the characteristics of the building that many former students have known for decades, Lee Greer said.
“I really want this to be special for the students and obviously want this to be something they want,” Greer said. “BurgerFi will have an enclosed patio, a glass front, and be something they can be proud of on that corner.”
He said they are “going to spend a significant amount to ... give it a facelift, make it a gathering place for students.”
The Greers also own hotels throughout the South; 44 Cheddar’s Casual Cafés in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina; and an interest in Willie’s Locally Known and the now-defunct Coba Cocina.