Lawrence Barbecue was set to open at Raleigh’s Boxyard RTP (a shipping container startup development) in Research Triangle Park, in Spring 2020. But like the entire food and beverage community, Jake Wood, owner, was left treading water — with blueprints for a restaurant, unable to open as a result of COVID-19 shutdowns and regulations.
A bar was always part of Wood’s idea for Lawrence Barbecue, however, the pandemic days leading up to now have left him in survival mode. The team cooked barbecue overnight in parking lots around the Triangle and popped up at spots like Wye Hill and Killjoy, offering a glimpse into the world of Lawrence Barbecue, in hopes to stay afloat.
Back to “leisure bar.”
An opportunity presented itself to Wood to take over the shipping container above the restaurant. A silver lining, he relayed, and an opportunity to launch Lagoon, a “leisure bar,” to coincide with the barbecue joint. “First and foremost, it’s a way to pack on revenue and try to make up for the hole we’ve dug ourselves into this year,” says Wood. “We’ve been so lucky to work, stay paid, help folks out, and do some cool things along the way.”
Wood and Lawrence Barbecue beverage director Zack Thomas have always had a soft spot for tiki drinks. “We wanted to steer away from that and create our own thing,” Wood says. “We’ve never heard of a leisure bar or leisure beverages,” he says, adding that it allows the team to explore within their own concept, keeping it fresh and fun.
Drinks will be presented like “mid-70s, mid-80s resort-style beverages” that you’re used to paying way too much for, laced with a bunch of booze — but with thought and intention going into each drink. The drinks are designed to pair effortlessly with barbecue and oysters, and everything in between. Wood reiterates that Lagoon’s drinks will be a bang for the buck, crafted with local spirits whenever possible. Lagoon has been designed by architect team Matthew Konar and Jenn Truman, of Matthew Konar Architect, the same team that is designing Lawrence Barbecue.
“Lagoon is a callback to places I’d visit as a kid with my family down on the coast,” says Thomas. What to expect? A mix of frozen drinks, fun garnishes, and a “dope playlist.” “We aim to take folks to a place of relaxation with a cold drink and a setting that encourages you to kick your feet up and enjoy the time off,” Thomas adds. A step into the “leisure bar” will offer a world of escapism for a few hours.
At Lagoon, ICEEs are coined “NICEEs.” Slushie machines are a bar staple, filled with nostalgic drinks, like smoked Cherry Coke slushies and Sun Drip (house-made Sun Drop) — with booze. Branded souvenir cups, reminiscent of childhood, will vehicle beverages. “Everywhere we went [growing up] I got souvenir cups and color-changing plastic cups,” wood notes, throwing it back to the Welch’s Jelly Jam glasses with Disney characters. “It’s another layer of our brand that people can feel connected to.”
Paul Tuorto, a designer and art director in Raleigh, jumped on board to help Wood develop the branding for Lagoon. Lagoon’s vibe is best described as, “a beachside resort, but something is lurking in the water.” Wood instates Lagoon will feel like an old-school beach dive.
Downstairs at Lawrence Barbecue, customers will be able to take advantage of Lagoon drinks but upstairs will have bar seating and a more dialed-up beverage menu. Lagoon is slated to open in March 2021, slightly staggering behind Lawrence Barbecue in February. “We will serve folks however we can, whether full service or 50% capacity — and we will follow all CDC guidelines and provide the best guest experience we can until the world opens back up,” says Wood. “We will continue to adapt and keep surviving.”