A traditional Southern restaurant scene may be what meets the eye when students visit Bloodhound Bar & Restaurant, but it is also attempting to revamp Auburn’s music scene and make its customers feel at home.
Bloodhound’s brick walls and concrete floor have housed a wide variety of businesses, beginning with Auburn’s first newspaper, The Auburn Bulletin. The space eventually transformed in 1999 into what was Auburn’s only brewery, the Olde Auburn Ale House.
Bloodhound’s owner, Matt Poirier, bought the historic space after the Ale House went under.
“This is a really old building, so definitely as things progressed we found out some of the equipment was too old and had some structural issues,” Poirier said.
Despite some challenges, the rustic and raw interior of the building oozed potential, he said. Bloodhound’s location downtown, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of College Street, is located next to the municipal parking deck.
“It’s in proximity to Toomer’s Corner, but it’s not necessarily on the main strip, so visibility is lower,” Poirier said. “But I also like that it’s kind of out of the way.”
Poirier said Bloodhound’s location undoubtedly poses a challenge not being right on the strip, but it’s not completely unknown.
“I think people know that we’re here; they just have to know that it’s different,” Poirier said. “When people walk by they’re really surprised at how much it has changed.”
Poirier said the location’s previous owner allowed others to manage it.
“He was an absentee owner, and I really think that was the big problem,” Poirier said. “So my wife and I try to be here all the time.”
In comparison to other local restaurants, Poirier said Bloodhound is “like nothing else in Auburn.”
“We’re delivering an upscale product, but in a casual environment,” Poirier said. “Our presentation may not be as fancy as Hamilton’s, but I think our food quality is just as good.”
Poirier said he followed his intuition when envisioning a plan for the restaurant. He previously owned a mortgage business and had worked with the restaurant industry, but was a novice when it came to operating his own.
“I have 12 years of experience in the restaurant field and it’s always been a passion of mine,” Poirier said.
Poirier said Bloodhound offers variety to its customers.
“We have a little bit of everything,” he said. “We created a high-quality, one-page menu and have an outdoor patio. It’s a big space, a lot of different rooms with live music happening on one side.”
The centerpiece of the main room is the long dining table for community seating.
“That was actually in my parents’ wedding and was built by my dad and uncle,” Poirier said. “I liked the idea of community seating because it will bring people together, and I want people to feel like family when they’re here.”
Other personal touches include shotgun shells sealed into the the bar and framed family photos along the walls.
“Those are the little things that make a place feel like home,” Poirier said.
Poirier posted sneak peek photos and status updates about the restaurant’s renovation and music lineup on Facebook to spark interest and build “a Bloodhound following before it even opened.”
Katy Nichols, junior in psychology, was recently hired as a server. As an Auburn native, Nichols has seen her share of Auburn businesses come and go.
“I think Bloodhound is here to stay,” Nichols said. “It’s honestly so hard to tell because we’re just starting out.”
Poirier said Bloodhound’s bar also sets them apart.
“You can go to Mellow Mushroom and they have a great selection of beer, but they don’t have any other alcohol,” Poirier said. “Or you can go to Hamilton’s or Amsterdam’s and have a full bar, but they might not have a wide selection of beers. We have both the beer and liquor drinks.”
Poirier said they want people to not only come for the food and drinks, but also for the music.
“We just want to get the word out that we have a live music venue and that it’s separate from the restaurant,” Poirier said. “It’s not necessarily the same thing.”
Poirier’s vision for the bar includes catering to an older college crowd while creating a more sophisticated atmosphere.
“After 9 p.m. the lights are going to go down lower and the music a little higher,” Poirier said. “It will definitely turn into more of a bar scene.”
Bloodhound will offer drink specials.
“I can’t say we’re going to do the 32-ounce, $2 Styrofoam cup, ‘get wasted’ thing,” Poirier said.
Nichols said Poirier does hope to cater to an older, “business-like” crowd, but Bloodhound’s live shows will inevitably draw a younger following.
“We’ll have a lot of the same bands that used to play at the Independent before it shut down,” Nichols said.
Bloodhound hopes to offer something for everyone.
“You may not like everything here, but there’s something you will love,” Poirier said.