Westlake native Paul Schell has returned after 25 years in L.A. to open a modern-day supper club in the old Saucy Bistro location.
The new SB Eighty One is meant to be a one-stop shop for an evening out, with fine dining, wine, dancing and cocktails, all in the same place.
“There’s nothing like this in anywhere in Cleveland,” Schell said. “In the old days, you’d go to these nice, fancy restaurants and they’d just slide all of the tables out of the area and dance. Now the places with dance floors have pizzas and hot wings and potato skins. We have fine dining with dancing.”
Schell said he has owned and operated several restaurants, bars and nightclubs in L.A. He sold his last place nine months ago and started scouting locations in May after his brother persuaded him to move back to Ohio. After looking at nearly 80 places including Johnny Malloy’s in Lakewood and Liquid in downtown Cleveland, Schell chose the spot on Detroit Road.
But it’s more than a business to Schell. The graduate remembers coming to the restaurant before dances, back when it was the Iron Gate.
“I used to come for winter formals, and I came here for Prom, so it has a special place in my heart,” he said.
Schell and his business partner Shyla Barnes have overhauled the menu and lowered prices, but kept the top two selling appetizers, salads and entrees from the Saucy Bistro menu. They have also done renovations to the space, creating a dance floor and bar in the basement.
“We priced it out so that you can come in here with your boyfriend or husband and have a nice dinner, a glass of wine, come downstairs for a cocktail, all for under $50,” Schell said.
Saucy Bistro regular Susan Cheary said she stopped by the new restaurant for lunch, and liked it so much that she plans to come back to check out the night life.
"I'm so glad they didn't decide to turn this into something else," she said. "I've been coming here for years."
SB Eighty One serves food until 2 a.m. on weekend nights, and they just added a Sunday brunch last week. Schell is hoping to start bringing national music acts to the restaurant soon, with special advance ticket availability for regular customers.
“You have to take care of your regulars,” he said. “With national acts, people will come in from all over and they won’t care about the food or the place. This way I’m actually taking care of the people who come in here and spend their money and support the staff and business. We’re grateful that they’re coming in here.”
Schell said showing appreciation for customers, especially in a down economy, is the key to success. He’s hoping to build a community base of support.
“This is all about my kids,” he said. “This is the best place I could raise them.”
Schell has a 1-year-old baby, a 5-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old stepdaughter, who just started working as a server assistant at the restaurant.
“I’ve had a lot of different places,” he said. “But this is different because it’s my hometown and I hope this place lasts forever.”