With quizzical expressions, newcomers step through the front door of Dinkytown's newest business, the Kitty Cat Klub, at 313 14th Ave. S.E.
A huge gold cat statue sits erect at the edge of the bar, beckoning visitors in with a cold stare.
At first glance, the restaurant looks either unfinished or impressively historic if one doesn't know it's new.
In some places, the ceiling has been totally cleared to its bare structure. The pipes running among the beams have been recently painted and glisten above twirling fans.
But this part of the ceiling is the epicenter of the renovation bomb.
Moving to its perimeters, broken boards begin to show up. Ancient nails hold them to the ceiling 30 feet above the bar stools.
Moving farther out, signs of the old ceiling begin to appear. In one spot, the ceiling that was once above the many racks of clothing at Ragstock is still intact.
The design is a new twist on old artifacts, once part of the Loring Cafe.
"It's just a homey atmosphere," said Loring Pasta Bar owner and Kitty Cat Klub manager Jason McLean.
The Kitty Cat, which opened its doors Nov. 25, creates a comfortable environment out of heavy and edgy furnishings.
Each room, perhaps better described as a section, has its own distinct decor and lighting.
The eclectic rooms compliment the diverse offerings of the combination bar, cafe, restaurant and soon-to-be discoteque.
The bar serves everything from cafe mochas to 40 ounce bottles of Mickey's, and the rooms range from cushy couch spreads to a pool table room with an old black and white photo booth.
Radical might have been what McLean had in mind. A 1972 graduate from Marshall-University High School - now office buildings at the corner of Fifth Street Southeast and 14th Avenue Southeast - McLean grew up in Dinkytown's historic fervor of Vietnam protests, sit-ins and, of course, radical coffee shops.
"I'm just kind of a hometown boy," McLean said, explaining why he chose Dinkytown for the Loring Pasta Bar and the Kitty Cat Klub. And, he said, the quiet streets of the mid 1990s were a little sad.
But he said Dinkytown is now regaining some of its old spark. It's undeniable that the street life is back, he said.
"There's many times it feels a bit like New York," McLean said.
Part of that feel might come from the Kitty Cat Klub. Although the restaurant has a small kitchen for food such as salads and nachos, most of the food comes from the Loring Pasta Bar or Annie's Parlour upstairs, which means servers walk the food from remote kitchens.
And if the food comes from the Loring Pasta Bar, servers transport it along the 14th Avenue sidewalk, covering it with a room service lid.
The tri-kitchen results from an unusual arrangement of ownership and management. Annie's Parlour owner, John Rimarcik, actually owns the Kitty Cat Klub, while McLean manages it.
But the decorations came almost entirely from the dissolved Loring Cafe, which filled six semi trucks full of furnishings when it closed, McLean said.
Four of them were used to fill the Kitty Cat, he said.
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