Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Lonnie Nichols sweeps off the leaves and branches that have collected on the roof of the King’s Tavern kitchen since the restaurant was closed last year.
Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Lonnie Nichols sweeps off the leaves and branches that have collected on the roof of the King’s Tavern kitchen since the restaurant was closed last year.

Natchez couple to return tavern to restaurant royalty

Published 12:01am Thursday, April 25, 2013

NATCHEZ — A new owner plans to breathe new life into one of Natchez’s oldest structures.

Natchez native, chef and restaurateur Regina Charboneau, her husband Doug and their son Jean Luc purchased King’s Tavern at 611 Jefferson St. The transaction closed on Friday.

Over the next several months, the family plans to clean up the property and eventually reopen the restaurant as early as September.

King’s Tavern, also known as the Bledsoe House, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and operated as a restaurant and bar from the late 1980s until it closed in February 2012.

The property has been vacant since.

Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat —  Nichols and Robert Jones, below, have been trimming the vines that have become overgrown and have started taking over the tavern bar.
Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Nichols and Robert Jones, below, have been trimming the vines that have become overgrown and have started taking over the tavern bar.

The structure is considered one of the oldest buildings in Natchez and the state, said Mimi Miller, executive director of the Historic Natchez Foundation.

Though the historical marker out front contains an error, local historians believe it was probably built in the late 1790s.

“I’m very, very happy,” Miller said. “I’m glad it will still have some public access.”

Charboneau said the idea to purchase the property came, in part, from a night of boredom.

“It is kind of funny because literally not two weeks ago, Doug and I were sitting on the sofa watching TV, which I rarely do, and Doug said, ‘I don’t want to do this. I need a project.’”

After looking at the building, the decision was set.

“We just love the building,” Regina Charboneau said. “It needs some TLC, but the building speaks for itself.”

Charboneau said her first priority is getting the building where it needs to be.

“It’s amazing to me about historic structures. It’s always the oldest part of the building that’s standing strong, and the newest part needs some work.”

Although for years the restaurant at King’s Tavern featured white tablecloths and steaks, Charboneau said the menu and atmosphere would be different when the restaurant reopens.

“It’s going to be a very simple concept with wood-fired flatbreads,” she said, describing what some people might consider gourmet pizza. “We’re going to embrace the feeling of the tavern.

Charboneau said the restaurant will have three different types of flatbreads per day, and maybe one to two good salads per day.

“I’m making my own mozzarella for the flatbreads. It’s going back to the basics,” she said. “Also, every drink we carry will be craft, hand-made products, like unusual sodas, and if we do tea, it will be interesting teas.”

“Our beers and our spirits will all be craft brands, too.”

Charboneau jokingly warns that suggestions are welcome but will not sway her vision for the new restaurant.

“I absolutely am set in stone,” she said. “I know exactly what I want to do. I know it’s going to work. It’s going to be fun.”

Her track record is pretty good, too — she founded several restaurants, operates Twin Oaks Bed and Breakfast and serves as the executive chef of the American Queen steamboat.

Months from possibly opening, she’s already got ideas about how to market the restaurant.

Since the brand is well known, Charboneau said, she’ll probably keep it as King’s Tavern, but may market it locally as just “The Tavern.”

The Charboneaus’ initial plan is to work on getting the older part of the business opened up and possibly open up something in the former bar portion of the building later.

“Right now our focus is the tavern, but we’re working on another idea for that space, but it will not be a bar,” she said.

In addition to involvement from her husband and one of their two sons, Jean Luc, Charboneau said her employees at Twin Oaks will also be integral to the success.

“Robert Jones and Janet Tyler are my family at Twin Oaks; they will help free up time to work on this,” she said.

In addition to the restaurant, the family plans to allow some limited public tours of the building, which has long been rumored to be haunted.

“We’ll probably do one tour a day at 10 in the morning for all of the people who love all the ghost stories,” Charboneau said. “The other day I had four different carloads of people come up on the first day we had keys to see inside.”

  • suzee981

    Glad to see the Tavern coming back to life! Just hope they still serve prime rib! It was excellent!

  • Milteer.

    She said the menu is flatbreads only. Don’t see much demand for it. Roux 61 has turned the local restaurnt scene topsy-turvy.

  • Anonymous

    GREAT!!

  • Anonymous

    If Mrs. Charboneau is serving water and salteens, I’d try it out. Her food is always awesome.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jack.russel.1806 Jack Russel

    Great news. Any outoor seating planned?

  • http://www.facebook.com/batsnapper Allen Richard

    Glad to hear King’s Tavern will be back in service and that someone will be doing it right.

  • http://www.facebook.com/batsnapper Allen Richard

    Roux 61 is great, but man does not live by their menu alone.

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com khakirat

    This is great news for the Wife and I have always went to the Kings Tavern for over twenty five years for our wedding anniversary till it was closed!! We most always ordered the prime rib and a bottle of champagne that was always excellent!! We also brought our out of town friends and kin folks as well that have requested to go to but it was closed!

  • Elaine Daniels

    A good salad and fresh flatbread sounds delicious. Just remember the word “good” on the salad, not just the same ole tired salad bars and salads available locally. And fresh flatbread…make some not soggy with sauce, but crisp and fresh…mmm!

  • Milteer.

    They won’t be serving prime rib.

  • Milteer.

    Roux has put a huge dent in their competitors’ business. Many downtown eateries are barely making it and chains are hurting as well.

  • Anonymous

    Probably because they charge like they are a five star establishment when in reality it is closer to a two.

  • Milteer.

    If that’s the case, people wouldn’t pay it and would return to the other establishments. Btw, if you’ve been to Dallas or Houston, those aren’t “five star” prices which means you don’t know what you are talking about.

  • STENDIG

    I hope that the fare is not to limited that will in turn limit patronage.

  • suzee981

    Flatbreads only? That doesn’t make any sense! Oh well, it will help employ people and that’s always a good thing!

surely