Jake’s puts focus on staying local

acoyne@thestate.comJuly 27, 2013 

  • The new hangouts

    This is the first of an occasional series about places and events in Columbia that are changing the way we socialize. Have a suggestion? Email it to statefeatures@thestate.com

There’s only one place in Five Points where employees sometimes walk around with a “pooper scooper.”

That’s Jake’s, a dog-friendly bar and restaurant with a focus on Columbia. Besides periodically partnering with Pets Inc. for adoption drives, one of Five Points’ newer establishments gets all of its food locally and has beer from Conquest Brewing Company, a Columbia brewery, on tap.

“It’s important to us,” owner Chris Davis said of the bar’s local focus. “It’s cheaper and easier not to be (local) and to go with big national suppliers, but a lot of people are fine with it. The money stays in Columbia, so people are willing to spend a few extra bucks to keep it here.”

But the food at Jake’s isn’t just local. The kitchen uses fresh, organic produce from City Roots and Yandle’s Roadside Market, both near downtown Columbia.

“The shelf life is longer and the taste is better,” City Roots Office Manager Courtney Brooks said of the farm’s organic produce, supplied to Jake’s and more than 80 other South Carolina eateries.

Davis and John Sears, the bar’s other owner, also ensure all meat is free-range and that the animals were raised in cruelty-free environments — no cages or artificial hormones. Their pork comes from Columbia’s Caw Caw Creek, while they get cheese and other meats from Wil-Moore Farms in Lugoff.

“We want to know that these animals were treated well — that they were on a farm, walking around, not stuck in a cage so small they can’t turn around,” Davis said.

But for Davis and Sears, compassion for animals doesn’t stop at the dinner table. Jake’s hosts a “Yappy Hour” — happy hour with dogs — and occasionally brings in groups of ready-to-adopt dogs from Pets Inc., many of whom are “hard to place,” according to Pets Inc. founder Jane Brundage. Sears has even paid for some dogs’ adoption fees, Brundage said.

“It’s hard to say how many dogs and cats Jake’s has helped,” Brundage said. “In addition to the dogs that have been adopted at Jake’s, many more have been adopted because so many of their customers have come to our adoption center to see our other dogs, and even cats. The exposure has probably resulted in dozens of adoptions.”

They also utilize social media to help the shelter out when it needs extra help. The bar’s Twitter account and Facebook page sometimes feature dogs in need of a home when Pets Inc. gets “overwhelmed,” Davis said.

The dogs aren’t brought to Jake’s spacious patio area much during the summer — the heat can be too much for them, Davis said — but during the cooler months, several are brought to mingle with customers about once a month, to reasonable success.

“After a beer or two, people are a little more likely to take one of them home,” Davis said.

Besides dogs, the patio is also home to live music every Sunday. Just outside Jake’s doors is a deck covered in greenery, featuring an outdoor bar and a small stage, which features local bands once a week.

Jake’s occupies the same space that was once Rockafella’s, a storied bar and music venue that helped give rise to Hootie and the Blowfish. Rockafella’s shut its doors in 1998 and reopened as Jake’s Bar and Grill in 2000 under different owners. It sometimes featured live music and its menu had the standard bar fare of chicken wings and pizza, but it closed about 10 years later.

Sears and Davis brought it in 2011, keeping the name, but shaking up the menu and recommitting to reviving the downtown Columbia music scene, which Davis said “isn’t as vibrant as it once was.”

“We hope that places like this will help bring it back,” Davis said.

Other business owners share that hope; while the Five Points Pub closed earlier this year, the Moosehead Saloon opened in its place July 16. The bar, run by the owner of Burger Tavern 77 and the Thirsty Parrot, will focus on booking rock and country acts, said Amy Beth Franks, executive director of the Five Points Association.

Even when there’s no live music, Jakes’ deck is popular with patrons on any day, with corn hole and putt putt as nightly activities.

Despite only being in its second year, Jake’s is already a regular hangout for many, especially among those in their mid-to-late 20s and early 30s, said Franks, who sometimes brings her dog Oliver to Yappy Hour.

“It’s packed every night I go,” Franks said. “It’s already a landmark...the owners really understand the direction that Five Points is going in.”

But Davis and Sears are looking to attract customers of all ages; Davis said they often see people “from 21 to 60,” and are trying to appeal more to families.

“Bring your kids, they’ll have a good time,” Davis said.

But when you take away the charity efforts and the local focus, Jake’s still has what’s important for a bar, Franks said.

“Jake’s is just cool,” she said.


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