A new eatery fronted by two rockers and a restaurateur is preparing to strike into Richmond’s Carver neighborhood.
Cobra Cabana is taking over 901 W. Marshall St. with a plan to open this summer, filling a hole left last year when Black Sheep shut down.
The venture is a first for Herbie Abernethy, who goes by the stage name of Valient Himself as lead singer for hard rock band Valient Thorr, and Rob Skotis, a bass player with local thrash metal group Iron Reagan. Their partner Josh Novicki is an experienced restaurant operator from North Carolina.
Launching a restaurant together was an idea born out of their 20-year friendship, which dates back to their days at East Carolina University.
“We all met in Greenville (North Carolina) in 1997,” Abernethy said. “We wanted to do this restaurant for a while … but we all got busy doing other things.”
For Abernethy and Skotis, it was traveling the world with their respective bands – touring places like Spain and Poland and taking in the international cuisines.
Meanwhile, Novicki took his DJ skills across the U.S. before settling in the coastal city of Wilmington, North Carolina, where he helped launch several restaurants, including as a partner of Rx Restaurant and Bar – an acclaimed establishment near that city’s downtown. He’s now manager at En Su Boca on Boulevard.
After touring for months at a time on the road, and seeing other members of his band go out on separate ventures, Abernethy said it was time to revisit the restaurant business plan.
“There was a member of my band that opened up his own recording studio in North Carolina … and opening the restaurant was always a goal of ours,” he said. “So, that’s what we set out to do.”
They searched multiple locations, including the city’s Northside, before deciding on the Carver location. The 2,700-square-foot shop was vacated in November 2017 by Black Sheep, after owner Kevin Roberts decided to launch Swan Dive, a new concept in the former Betty on Davis space in the Fan.
“With Nick’s Deli and Black Sheep gone, there seemed to be a sandwich vacuum in the area,” Abernethy said. “We feel like based on what we want to offer, we can fill that void with more options.”
Annie O’Connor and Martin Blum, brokers with Colliers International, represented the landlord in the lease.
Abernethy said Cobra Cabana’s menu would comprise items the trio has sampled at places abroad.
“We want to include elements of all the things we like. There may be a sandwich on the menu from Portugal … or something that we tried in Midlothian,” he said. “We want to have six to seven signature items on the menu … we don’t want it to be overwhelming for people.”
He said the restaurant also will include vegan items and serve cocktails, with some drinks taking the names of characters from the 1980s and early 1990s cartoon series “G.I. Joe.”
Abernethy said the group wants Cobra Cabana to be a neighborhood destination, with plans to incorporate activities at the restaurant like movie nights.
“It’s going to have a cool vibe,” he said. “We’re excited to be doing this, and we think it’s going to be a cool place for everyone.”