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Vienna couple creating speakeasy-style restaurant in Marietta

Sebastian Cruells asks Whitney Cruells’ opinion on lighting placement over the bar as the two work through renovations for 740 Social. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

MARIETTA — On Saturday, attendees of the lighted Christmas parade in Marietta should be on the lookout for more than just floats passing down Front Street.

“If the weather holds up, we want to welcome people to the patio to meet us and have some free hot cocoa and cookies,” said Whitney Cruells, 34, of Vienna.

Whitney and Sebastian Cruells, 40, are in mid-renovation of the former 181 Riverside bar, also formerly known as Jimbo’s and Slapshotz with their eyes on a soft-opening come springtime of 740 Social, a speakeasy-style restaurant and bar at 181 Front St.

The bar has been closed since its former owner, Jim Bauer, 65, passed away in March 2018.

The Cruellses are parents of three small children and are now investing their life savings, midnight hours and combined restaurant and bar experience traveling the globe into Marietta.

Sebastian and Whitney Cruells are the new mom-and-pop owners working on renovating and opening 740 Social as a speakeasy-style restaurant and bar in the former college bar on Front Street with past names: Riverside 181, Jimbo’s and Slapshotz. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

They have worked throughout the year to purchase the property and are now under contract for its seven parcels–including the parking lot at the corner of Butler and Post streets and the long-closed former photography and videography office at 185 Front St. next door which Bauer lived above in an apartment.

And their vision for the place is to welcome not only the college-aged crowd after 9 p.m., but also families, young professionals and private parties.

“Since 2012, we’ve been here and I’ve always, always loved Marietta,” said Sebastian. “I want you to come in and feel comfortable, whether you’re here for lunch on break from the offices and banks downtown, or dinner with your family or staying later to drink and dance.”

With that comfort in mind, changes are already visible from the street as new lights are strung back and forth between the brick facades of the patio.

“We’re planning to have a full-service patio out here with high tops, a small corner stage for some live ambiance–the whole idea is you can walk up from the street and enjoy lunch, Sunday brunch and really be outdoors,” said Whitney.

Whitney Cruells and Sebastian Cruells review paint color options for the outside patio as they renovate the former college bar on Front Street into a speakeasy-style restaurant and bar. (Photo by Janelle Patterson)

Then passing inside to where the pool tables still sit, she said that room will transform into a light and airy dining room.

“We’re working to de-glaze the windows to let in that natural light and have new flooring coming, a new silver tin ceiling to go up,” she described.

But as guests pass from the dining room through the hallway to the formal bar, the mood is set to change.

“The lighting through that hallway will lead you down, you’re entering the bar, the lounge here where the whole atmosphere is more intimate,” said Sebastian.

Exposed brick is expected to stay throughout the property as the couple add lounge-style sofa seating around the dance floor, refresh the DJ booth and update lighting throughout.

“We know so many people have great memories from this place’s past and we want them to feel welcome here and want their grandmother to still feel welcome coming for lunch or dinner here,” said Whitney, who grew up in Parkersburg before moving to New York City to learn the restaurant business and eventually meeting Sebastian in Hell’s Kitchen.

“We met working in the ‘Be Our Guest’ restaurants in New York and learned that service-focused style and the business of restaurants and design from our time there,” said Whitney.

“I grew up moving all around with my dad,” added Sebastian, who is originally from Argentina. “And we’ve moved three times, selling everything, packing up and taking the risk.”

But when the two returned to the Mid-Ohio Valley, they immediately fell in love with a new definition of ‘home’ after opening restaurants in California and traipsing about Asia.

“Without giving too much away until we taste-test our menu, we want to bring fun twists to food you already know,” said Whitney. “Food needs to be fun and at the same time, affordable and provided with incredible service.”

Sebastian said his eyes are set on completing renovations throughout the winter months and beginning to train new staff in February.

Janelle Patterson can be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

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