toast of the town
Ryan Gold, Justin Owen, and Ravi Anne raise the bar for downtown revitalization.
WRITTEN BY SUE EDMONDSON
PHOTO BY CHRIS HOLLOMAN
You’d never know that Ryan Gold and Justin Owen weren’t Nevada born and raised. The two former Illinois natives and longtime friends have taken to Northern Nevada’s lifestyle and landscape without reservation.
“We’ve turned into Nevadans,” Gold says. “We camp, ski, boat, bike — really anything outdoors.”
They met in 1999, while working in Biaggi’s Italian restaurant in Champaign, Ill. Gold was 23, Owen, 25. After spending the next several years in various aspects of the restaurant business, each was ready for a new career direction and open to a change of scenery. Two friends, Chris Green and future business partner Ravi Anne, encouraged them to come to Reno to open a restaurant. They’d been watching downtown Reno’s revitalization and believed the timing was right.
“We came to Reno multiple times and fell in love with it,” Gold says. “We had super confidence that the area would revitalize itself and that we’d be part of something great.”
Renovating with respect
With a gastropub in mind, they found an old brick building in the heart of downtown Reno. Then came design and remodeling, the first of many similar projects.
“The process is exciting and creative, and we both really enjoy it,” Owen says. “It’s a great break from the day-to-day restaurant business.”
Although both appreciate modern design, their focus is on restoring older buildings and repurposing original materials whenever possible. So when Imperial Bar & Lounge opened on Arlington Avenue in 2007, its character remained central to the renovation — modern touches provide contemporary flair. While the renovation went as planned, Imperial morphed into something quite different than originally envisioned.
“It was supposed to be primarily a dining place,” Gold says. “But it’s dining, drinking —bigger than we ever imagined. It’s really its own beast.”
Growing with Reno
Opening other businesses was never the plan, but Gold, Owen, and Anne found opportunity irresistible.
“There was talk of the Aces coming in, and a building at Fourth [Street] and Evans [Avenue] came up for sale,” Gold says. “It turned out to be the right location at the right time.”
Lincoln Lounge opened there in 2008, a year ahead of the Reno Aces Ballpark (now Greater Nevada Field). The brew-centric bar retains the vintage feel of an early-1900s building, the woodworking craftsmanship of the era evident.
That was just the start. In 2009, they joined others to launch a construction business, Group West Construction Inc., which rounded out their design-remodel abilities. The next year, they used those abilities to open Old Granite Street Eatery, where the casual setting belies its exceptional food and drink.
“We were at a point in our lives where we decided it was time to raise our personal bar and do more chef-focused, American comfort food, featuring local, high-quality ingredients,” Gold says.
Their latest venture, Royce, opened in 2014, not surprisingly in a historic building. However, its initial reputation as a wine bar proved limiting.
“It got kind of pigeon-holed as snooty,” Owen says. “Now it’s a regular neighborhood bar, and the Royce Burger drives the place!”
It takes a village
Gold and Owen believe community spirit is key, so they’re committed to giving his fellow entrepreneurs a leg up through offering consulting services in restaurant management, employee training, restaurant design, and remodeling.
One of their biggest undertakings was the Overland Restaurant & Pub in Gardnerville, where the owners invited them to help create the menu, train staff, design the restaurant, and complete the remodel. They’ve also offered design ideas to the Record Street Brewing owners, across from The Depot brewery/distillery/restaurant on Fourth Street in Reno (they even used to own the building that now houses The Depot before selling it to its current owners). Gold and Owen are happy to share their expertise with others in the bar and restaurant business, including former employees who have opened their own businesses.
“We help because we can, and because the healthier Reno is, the better it is for all of us,” Gold says.
That community feeling carries over to their employees, some of whom have been with them since Imperial opened. Gold and Owen are more than grateful for the skill and loyalty of their staff members.
“We couldn’t have any kind of life without our incredible employees,” Owen says.
Both are happy they made their way to Reno.
“At the end of the day, we’re just excited to be part of something great,” Gold says.
Freelance writer Sue Edmondson writes for various publications. She feels at home in Royce, in part because it is like home — she, too, lives in one of the former El Reno apartments.
Imperial Bar & Lounge 150 N. Arlington Ave., Reno • 775-324-6399 • http://www.Imperialbarandlounge.com
Lincoln Lounge 302 E. Fourth St., Reno • 775-323-5426 • http://www.Thelincolnlounge.com
Old Granite Street Eatery 243 S. Sierra St., Reno • 775-622-3222 • http://www.Oldgranitestreeteatery.com
Royce 115 Ridge St., Reno • 775-440-1095 • http://Roycereno.com
Group West Construction Inc. • 775-250-9302