Leslie Turk

Downtown Lounge's raw deal

by Leslie Turk

Michele Ezell and her partners at Tsunami Sushi on Jefferson Street had what amounts to a couple of "aha" moments before and after this Valentine’s Day. Booked up and having already turned down a number of requests for reservations on Feb. 14, they decided to start offering dining at their upscale sister business, Lounge, located next door. Customers jumped at the offer. "We ended up having 10 total reservations," says Ezell. "We seated about 45 people."

In the days that followed, the customers who had celebrated Valentine’s Day at Lounge began inquiring into what opportunities might be offered to dine there again. "We got some complimentary calls, saying ‘hey, the next time y’all do that, let us know. We’d love to dine there again,’" Ezell recalls. That’s when another little light bulb went off. "We put our heads together and said why don’t we do that all the time. We do typically have a hefty wait on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday nights, so we can always use the overflow room," Ezell says. The decision was quickly made to marry the two concepts, and on Sunday, construction got under way on an access door on the side of Tsunami’s bar. By this weekend — possibly even before — customers will have a choice of where they’d like to eat their sushi. With very little reconfiguration, Lounge will add another 48 seats, including bar dining, to Tsunami’s 120-seat restaurant.

Ezell expects the two crowds to be quite different. "[Lounge will] cater more to the adult diner who does not want to come into in a busy, loud restaurant," Ezell says. "Obviously, a lot of people do enjoy that, but I think there’s a niche of adult clientele who want to be able to enjoy our meal but want a nice, adult environment — one that’s quiet and intimate."