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When the Stars Align

By John Fox · April 23rd, 2008 · The Dish
  Two of a kind?: Bootsy Collins and Jeff Ruby announce a partnership.
Emily Maxwell

Two of a kind?: Bootsy Collins and Jeff Ruby announce a partnership.

Jeff Ruby's restaurants have always been associated with glitz, showmanship and celebrities, but he might be reaching for a new level with his latest dining concept. That's because Bootsy Collins is one of the few Cincinnati characters who can out-glitz Ruby.

Two weeks ago Collins and Ruby announced their formal partnership in a new downtown restaurant to be called Bootsy's. The logo features one of Collins' signature flashy top hats and the line "Produced by Jeff Ruby."

Bootsy's will sit across from the Aronoff Center for the Arts on Walnut Street in the long-vacant space next to and above Nicholson's.

A Spanish-themed tapas restaurant will share the second floor with a music club area, while Collins will develop a Rock & Roll museum on the ground floor. It's scheduled to open in the fall, possibly in September. Demolition work begins this week.

The venture seems like a dream come true for Collins, who said his mother would be proud that he's opening a high-profile restaurant in his hometown. At the press announcement April 3, he told a story about when he was a child he and his mother would come downtown to mostly window shop at Shillito's and gawk at the nice restaurants.

Collins' mother Nettie Lee passed away in 1997, long after he'd established himself as a famous musician in Parliament/Funkadelic, Bootsy's Rubber Band and, in the beginning, James Brown's backing band. Collins said he'd been biding his time looking for the right opportunity to partner with a Cincinnati restaurateur.

Ruby said that when he met Collins for the first time he knew the two would eventually work together. Both were perfectionists, Ruby said, who wanted to help Cincinnati -- particularly downtown -- snap out of its funk and try something fun and new.

Ruby said part of the reason it took so long to finalize the Boosty's deal was he kept tinkering with the restaurant concept. He's finally settled on a Spanish-influenced menu with tapas servings and has hired Chef Mark Boor from a Spanish-themed restaurant in Sarasota, Fla. Jimmy Gibson, executive chef for Ruby's restaurant group, will help design the menu.

A centerpiece of the restaurant will be an "exhibition kitchen" that gives guests an up-close view of the food preparation. Ruby said he was hoping the area could seat as many as 20.

The building's exterior will be as singular as the principals involved, Rudy said, describing a real transformation from the current stately brick fa├žade. A statue of Collins will be placed on Walnut Street, and a huge top hat will hang over the main entrance.

Ruby said he's received city permission to construct a large balcony out over the sidewalk, above the current Nicholson's outdoor area. And he was excited about installation of a glassed-in "birdcage" elevator to carry guests up to the second-floor restaurant.

The type of musical entertainment for Bootsy's wasn't announced, but Collins said to expect a mix of live bands and DJs.

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