A VCU alum wants to bring a taste of the Caribbean to Shockoe Bottom.
Ralph Dadzie plans to open Bello’s Lounge at 1712 E. Franklin St. in May.
Dadzie, 33, said Bello’s Lounge will serve African and Caribbean food in a lounge setting. He said he wants to create an upscale dining experience that draws on concepts in D.C. and the lounge he opened in 2007 in his native Ghana.
“Where I come from we have really nice lounges, but here, they go all the way to D.C. to go to a good lounge,” Dadzie said. “I thought, ‘Why don’t I bring something from back home meshed with D.C. and see how the crowd responds to it?’”
Dadzie said the line between a restaurant and a lounge is blurry, but he wants to focus on creating comfortable places for people to chat.
“Lounges have some kind of upscale setup – elegant booths, a place to sit, relax and have a conversation,” Dadzie said.
Backed by a group of investors, Dadzie said he plans to finalize the purchase of the 1,400-sqaure-foot restaurant space this week. The property is assessed at $150,000 and owned by Nancy Marston, according to a city record.
Dadzie, who graduated from VCU in December with a degree in business administration, would not say how much he expects it to cost to open Bello’s Lounge.
Dadzie said the property, a restaurant space built in 1919, has been vacant for about four years. His plans for it include a hibachi grill and live music.
He said most of the Caribbean eateries in town cater to quick dining. Dadzie said Jamaica House on West Broad Street, for example, has great food, but he’s more focused on the sit-down crowd.
Joanas Caribbean Cuisine at 1800 E. Main St. in Shockoe Bottom, which also serves African and Caribbean food, opened last year.
Further west near VCU, another new Caribbean concept recently opened.
R&B Caribbean Grill opened Feb. 13 at 308 N. Laurel St. The space was formerly home to I Love N.Y. Pizza, but the venture shut down in December.
Manager Heidi Karn said the new Caribbean concept is owned by the same people behind the pizza restaurant.