When Durham bar Criterion, a staple in the city’s downtown Five Points District, closed its doors in December, there was an outpour of mourning: INDY staff writer Thomasi McDonald described it as a “watering hole for many of the city’s blue- and white-collar workers” that was “all grown-up and sexy.” 

Since then, many have wondered what would happen to the space, which has the cool, dim outfitting of a classic pub and the specter of a hundred barflies and first dates past.

Earlier today, though, the team behind Luna Rotisserie announced that they plan to open not one, but two businesses at 347 W. Main Street: the first, Rubies on Five Points, will be a live music, bar, and event space in the second story of the location. (The space, originally named Whiskey, has long had two stories, though only the first story has been open the past few years of Criterion.) The second business, Remedy Room, a “classic neighborhood bar” with drinks and a bar menu with shared plates, will occupy the first story.

The bars will have separate, side-by-side entrances. 

“We are thrilled to be bringing these two businesses to this historic spot downtown,” owner Shawn Stokes, who is also the chef-owner of Luna Rotisserie, said in a press release. “We are looking forward to creating a lively upstairs bar and music venue as well as a comfortable, understated bar and lounge downstairs. These are two different experiences that we feel will thrive and complement the flourishing bar scene in downtown Durham.”  

Stokes also told the INDY that he has been in conversation with many local artists, as well as institutions like NC Central’s renowned jazz program, about getting a lineup going at Rubies on Five Points. He says that he invested heavily in a sound system for the space, which can seat 75-100, and is actively seeking to hear from more local artists.

Stokes also will bring Luna team members Rob Montemayor and Anthony Kofler on as partners at the two bars; earlier in 2020, he opened up a second location of Luna Rotisserie on East Main Street in Carrboro.

Ownership says that they plan to open Rubies on Five Points in mid-October, with Remedy Room to follow in late 2021. 

“After having been proven wrong so many times in the past, I hate to put something out there, again, that might yet still be wrong,” says Stokes, who shared that he had originally planned to open the bars in May and June. “But our hope is that people will continue to get vaccinated and stop this nonsense.” 

The downtown bar scene has shape-shifted somewhat over the course of the pandemic, with established spots like Bar Brunello and Criterion biting the dust, and the The Glass Jug Beer Lab and Annexe serving as recent bar additions. Some bars have tightened restrictions, with many bars requiring proof of vaccination for entrance and Surf Club notably raising its age entrance requirement to 23, while other precautionary measures have proved short-lived. (Shooters, a gathering spot for Duke undergraduates and source of concern for public health officials, closed down to much fanfare at the end of August, only to reopen on September 10.)

If change is the only constant for Durham’s downtown dining scene, Stokes reassures fans of Criterion that not too much will change about the old-school vibe of the downstairs space. 

“It’s an ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ sort of thing. I’ve lived in Durham since 2009 and it was my favorite bar—it was Whiskey when I first moved here. I felt like it was a jewel in the crown of Durham,” says Stokes. “It was surreal to have the opportunity to step in and do something new with the place, while still maintaining the overall aesthetic and integrity of the place.” 

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