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Forum, a New Restaurant & Nightclub, to Open in Roebling Point

A new restaurant and nightclub is set to open on the 300 block of Greenup Street where Sidebar most recently operated.

"Forum will be a restaurant and bar which serves American/Italian food in a very hip and urban atmosphere complete with brick walls, hardwood floors, perfect lighting, and live music," the new space's Facebook page proclaims.

Contractors have been busy reforming the space for Forum's expected November 22 opening. The buzz of activity has created a lot of early interest.

"We have ten people a day knocking on the door asking, when do you open?," said owner Anthony Ditomaso. He is joined in the operation of Forum by five minority owners, Aaron Tucker, Jesse Dalton, Titus Matthews, Brian Richmond, and Tim Scanlon.

In addition to lunch and dinner, you can expect to see a wide variety of performers taking the stage at Forum, too. "We have a lot of connections (in the local music scene)," Matthews said, adding that the music tastes would range from old school to country and everything else.

"We're going to keep it interesting, keep it fresh," he said.

In the upstairs space, a cigar-oriented environment will be nurtured, Ditomaso said of his vision that has been brewing for the past five or six years. He and Tucker looked at spaces throughout the area and came close to a deal at Newport on the Levee but that ultimately fell through.

The first time the partners walked through the Greenup Street space, the idea of locating there was not appealing. "It had to be cleaned up," Ditomaso said. "It was kind of a dump and we said, hell no."

After mulling it over further, he could see the possibilities more clearly. "Roebling Point is pretty awesome," he said. "This location could not be better."

Forum will open on the same block where NuVo at Greenup recently opened doors and across the street from where more parking was added when Barton's on Park Place was razed. The small entertainment district also boats the popular restaurants Keystone, Blinker's, and Molly Malone's, as well as the bar Down Under, and Roebling Point Books & Coffee. The area is popular at lunch with government employees and those doing business in the nearby courthouses as well as residents of the adjacent Licking Riverside Historic District.

"There's a built-in clientele. You just have to open the door," said Richmond, who is also the city administrator in Ludlow. "The concept these guys have come up with will complement Roebling Point."

Chef Steven Proctor is charged with creating the Italian-American fare that diners will soon enjoy at Forum, a name derived from the ancient civilizations of Rome. Because the word forum is associated with various civilizations, Proctor won't limit the menu to Italian. He'll offer Russian, Japanese, and other tastes. "I'm going to do an infusion to keep up with the theme," he said.

"We don't want to offer something you can get across the street or across the bridge," Ditomaso said. "I think we'll have a really good lunch crowd."

Forum will "create stuff you can't find at other restaurants," Proctor said, highlighting a Gnocchi mac-n-cheese made with the Italian potato dumpling.

The drink menu will also be diverse with craft beers, a martini menu, and lots of wines, Titus said. He also said that Forum will be very "event-driven" with special seating targeting the multiple fireplaces. There will be happy hours, holiday parties, and, naturally, toga parties.

"It's always been kind of a dingy bar," Ditomaso said. "The color scheme is brighter now, the floors are new, but it's still got that urban feel to it. I think people will say, wow, what a cool place!"

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo: Exterior of the soon-to-open Forum/RCN