ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The island awaits … on Central Avenue?
Burt’s Tiki Lounge, the 17-year-old Albuquerque bar, will soon trade its original Gold Avenue digs for 515 Central NW as part of a significant expansion project. Burt’s will nearly triple in size — meaning it can accommodate 600-700 people for its live music shows — and add a full-fledged Hawaiian barbecue restaurant.
Owner Kim Wong said he aims to complete the move in June, keeping the original location open until then.
Burt’s opened at Gold and 3rd in 1999, which Wong said ranks it among Downtown’s oldest active bars. Thrillist has named it among the country’s “best dive bars,” a list picked up by both Huffington Post and Yahoo.
Wong is taking great pains to keep the original Burt’s vibe alive in the more spacious setting. He’s working with Absolutely Neon to relocate and enhance the bar’s neon sign. He’s putting together a remodeling team that includes Albuquerque’s BASE Design + Build, which has done work with the Heritage Hotels chain, and a Denver-based architect Wong met while studying at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Real Estate.
“The challenge of a space that big is to make it in scale with the intimate coziness of the Gold street location,” he said of the new 9,000-square-foot spot, which has been vacant for about three years. “While that’s virtually impossible to replicate due to the nature of Gold street building, the plan we’re using is very much the old-made-new-again design. It’s just going to be one big, ol’ tiki lounge.”
When it comes to the kitchen, Wong is working with a veteran restaurateur out of Hawaii, who will be splitting his time between Maui and New Mexico.
Wong said the new Burt’s will be built in phases with the bar coming first, followed by the kitchen buildout.
He declined to disclose the project’s total cost but noted that it was a significant investment that reflected his confidence in Downtown’s ongoing revitalization. He said he’s encouraged by the recent wave of breweries and taprooms opening up in the area, which he said complement what he plans to do.
“It should be very in line with the definite upswing in Downtown,” he said.