By Sarah Mansheim
It is often said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results, and when Greenbrier Countians enter downtown Lewisburg’s latest drinking and dining establishment, The Asylum, they can expect a variety of different experiences all under one roof. Equal parts eatery, local pub, coffee bar and live music venue, The Asylum offers lunch, dinner and drinks in the main bar and an expansive deck outside with built-in heating units. Although the main bar and deck are open for business, The Asylum is still under construction. By spring, customers will enjoy a sipping room and wine cellar in the basement, and a roof-top deck for sunning, studying and partying all day and into the night.
“It’s a something-for-everybody kind of place,” says owner Colin Rose. “It doesn’t fit into a set category. It’s not a sports bar. It’s not a permanent live-music venue. It’s all that. I even see it as part coffee shop, where O-school students can come in on Saturday morning and study inside or out on the deck.”
The main bar, beautifully trimmed in salvaged walnut wood (acquired after the 2012 derecho, kiln dried in Monroe County and milled in Rose’s back yard), easily holds 150 people, and the 1,500 sq. ft. main deck can accommodate 76 more outside. The deck features rooftop radiant heaters. “It can be a three-season deck,” says Rose.
Upstairs on the roof, another 1,500 sq. ft. deck will house another bar with poolside-style lounge chairs and a large, round sectional sofa with a cantilever umbrella. The lower, basement bar will feature an expansive stone fireplace and wine cellar. “It will have a quiet, sipping-room feel for when customers want to get away from the noise upstairs,” says Rose.
Rose has linked up with Casasanta productions, and the Bob Thompson Jazz Trio is slated to perform at The Asylum on Dec. 10. Meanwhile, the 80-inch flat screen television in the main bar means it’s all football, all the time, says Rose. With five other smaller TVs in the room, sports fans have a great view of the game from anywhere in the main bar.
Rose also installed small, flat screen TVs over the urinals in the men’s restroom so they don’t have to miss the game while they use the restroom. That innovation had an unexpected effect over The Asylum’s opening weekend, when Rose entered the men’s room to find seven men standing together watching Ultimate Fighting on the bathroom TVs.
“One of my friends told me, you just built the ultimate man cave,” Rose says about The Asylum. “He’s right.”
As for the bar’s name, Rose says his girlfriend and business partner, Paula Thomas, came up with it, “because she says I’m crazy for opening this place.”
But really, he said, The Asylum was inspired by the little bar behind Robert’s Antiques in Lewisburg. “It had become our little clubhouse, and when Robbie closed the bar, we lost our clubhouse. So, I was going to put in a little bar, and then I thought we needed a deck. Once we got involved, it just grew and grew.”
The Asylum features a full lunch and dinner menu prepared by Chef Ethan Thomas. The menu is full of classic comfort food including fried chicken and mac and cheese, fish and chips, The Asylum burger topped with bacon and house-made pimento cheese, sweet potato fries, and more. The full service bar holds an array of beer and spirits, including those from Smooth Ambler and Greenbrier Valley Brewing Company. The Asylum is open seven days a week, every day except Christmas.
So, if insanity means doing the same thing over and over and expecting something different, then The Asylum can offer its customers all that and then some, every day (except Christmas).