041119_CTN_JohnstonTenant

Two new restaurants are planned for the new Johnston building in downtown Woodstock, with openings possible in fall and winter.

WOODSTOCK — As steel beams are erected in the early stages of construction for the new Johnston building, a tenant has been confirmed for the site: chef Justin Balmes, who will be the owner of multiple concepts for the space.

The three-story building, located at corner of Main and Mill streets, with a basement accessible from Wall Street, is planned to have a deck-like windowed frontage with a skylight on Main Street and an elevator. The owner, Smith Johnston, said he plans to incorporate brick from the previous building, which was constructed in 1909.

Mill Street will see road closures in the late evenings for about three weeks while a construction crew works on the beams. The Woodstock City Council approved after hours construction starting Tuesday. Both lanes of Mill Street will be closed 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday until April 30.

Heavy rains delayed the project, but the facility is scheduled to be ready for the tenant this summer with about 9,330 square feet of rentable space. The building is estimated to be completed by Aug. 1, said lead contractor Scott Belcher of Belcher Construction.

Balmes, a resident of the Sixes community and longtime veteran of the food industry, shared plans for two businesses with the Tribune in an interview Wednesday.

The chef is an Atlanta native and has been cooking for 21 years, he said. Before starting this project, he opened Two Birds Taphouse on Marietta Square.

“This is my first personal endeavor. I’ve opened many restaurants for other people before, but this is my own, which is very exciting for a number of reasons,” he said.

The main level will be the home of a restaurant called Main & Mill Public, a fast-casual public house intended for a variety of customers, including families. The menu is planned to rotate seasonally with locally and regionally sourced ingredients. The owner plans to open the public house in the fall or winter this year.

“It’s fast-casual, order at a counter, sit down with the family. It’s a very family focused restaurant,” Balmes said. “It’s almost the style of a barbecue restaurant where you go up and you say, I’ll have a pound of this protein, a pound of this protein, these different sides, and everybody sits down and kind of shares. It’s a very communal, bright, lively atmosphere.”

The upper story will house a different concept — Lucky Cat, a tapas restaurant and bar with live music, DJs and games. There, the space is planned to be adults only. Lucky Cat is expected to open two to four weeks after the first restaurant.

“It’ll be medium sized plates intended to be shared, higher energy, live music, live DJ, cool, fun, playful, inventive food,” he said. “There’s going to be a bocce court, fun games, a fun party scene.”

Balmes said there is a possible third concept in the basement area, but declined to say on the record any specific plans.

“I want to try to elevate the dining scene in Woodstock, Cherokee County,” he said. “As the city grows and develops, there’s a great call for good quality food. Woodstock is my home, I care about this place. I want a good place I can hang out as much as I want a successful business.”

The exterior of the building is being designed by Place Maker Design, which worked on Madlife, Century House Tavern and other downtown Woodstock projects, to have a historic feel. Parts of the interior spaces, especially on the main level, will incorporate pieces of Woodstock’s history, including an old bank vault door, a cash register, lumber and other artifacts.

“We’re building a high-quality building that will hopefully look like it’s been there since the turn of the century,” Johnston said.

Shannon is a reporter covering education, city governments, crime, features, religion and other local news. She is a graduate of Young Harris College and currently lives in unincorporated Woodstock.

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