The Corner Bar on McKinney Avenue has officially closed and will get a new lease on life as a revival of Chelsea Corner, the neighborhood bar that was in that very space back in the '80s.
Overseeing its revival is a team that includes Len Critcher, owner of The Tavern, partnered with Kent and Tracy Moore Rathbun.
"We are going to recreate Chelsea Corner in a fun, updated way," Tracy says.
Chelsea Corner was first opened by twin brothers Andy and Randy Clendenen in 1974, back when there was little else in that area. It changed hands multiple times and went on to become the Corner Bar, before it was acquired in late 2012 by Steve and Brandy Spence. It shut down at the end of 2015, and on January 1, Critcher snapped it up, then recruited the Rathbuns.
"Len has the Inwood Tavern, but he doesn't have experience in food," Tracy says. "We won't be working it day-to-day but we'll be helping with menu, the kitchen re-do, and kitchen staffing."
They intend to have Chelsea Corner-style food, but updated, she says.
Chelsea Corner was a pub, full of nautical clutter, with pub food, says Mynetta Cockerell, who was a manager there in the '80s. The menu included burgers, signature house drinks — and pizza.
"It was known for its excellent pizza," she says. "It had a thin crust with a little bit of honey in it, I don't know if anyone knew that. They made their own sauce, and ingredients were real important to them."
Cockerell recalls the original bar made of copper and brass and the casual atmosphere with fireplace and couches. "I think every SMU girl had been felt up in that restaurant somewhere," she quips. "Whenever I would tell anyone I worked there, they'd say, 'Oh, I used to make out with my girlfriend there.'"
The Rathbuns have history with Chelsea Corner; back when Kent and his brother Kevin were young chefs, it was a go-to place for restaurant folk to grab a pizza after work, and Tracy lived near the bar in her single days.
"I lived at the Knoxbridge apartments and spent many afternoons at Chelsea Corner," Tracy says. "Our goal is to have a neighborhood hangout for grownups."