Downtown Hays isn’t the same without the Fox Theater, say Jacob and David Proffitt, so the brothers are reviving the historic downtown icon at 13th and Main streets to open it as a high-end lounge.
“It’s going to be open every day, and everyone’s invited,” Jacob said. “There won’t be a cover charge, it’ll be free to get in. During the day anyone can come in for lunch, and after 5 it’ll be 21 and over.”
Brothers-turned-partners, the Proffitts are known about town for business successes that include Tiger Burger, two Taco Grande restaurants, Munsch Fitness and the Auman Co. Inc., to name a few. They plan to open The Uptown Fox by May.
“When people think high-end, they think expensive, but it doesn’t matter if you’re a doctor or work at Burger King, everyone is invited here,” said Jacob, adding drink prices will be similar to the popular Toby Jugs at the other end of Main Street, on the one hand, “but if you want to upgrade your bourbon, you can. We’ll have a bottle of wine for $20 bucks, or if you want the $10,000 bottle of wine it’ll be available.”
Built as a movie theater that opened in 1950, the Fox has been a concert venue for the past year, with previous reincarnations that included time spent shuttered, in foreclosure, and as a rental for wedding receptions and other events.
As the new Uptown Fox, it will be a place for people to hang out, socialize, eat flatbread sandwiches and salads for lunch, have a drink and heavy appetizers in the evening, enjoy a favorite cigar, and play games. Live music, when there is some, will be at conversational levels, and patrons won’t have to worry about big crowds, bar fights or rowdy drunks.
The brothers say business-casual will get anyone in the door to relax in fine leather seating. At this point, they plan to add a kitchen, big screen TVs, wine racks, a humidor for storing cigars, a ventilated cigar room, and lockers where guests can keep liquor from one visit to another. So far, 30 are spoken for, so the brothers are adding another 20. Cost of a locker is $1,500 a year, which includes a $100-a-month credit toward the bar or food.
They imagine there will be different events each night, such as dinner and a movie, comedians, acoustic music, maybe dueling pianos, and showing football and basketball games when Kansas’ favorites like the Jayhawks and Chiefs are playing.
“Literally the nicest people in the country live here,” David said. “So it’ll be like a big ol’ neighborhood block party, where people can come and hang out and meet the people you’ve heard about and haven’t seen.”
Everything will be top-notch, just less crowded than the previous venue, which was known for its concerts, said the brothers.
“Instead of treating it like a mosh pit, it’ll be more of a VIP experience,” said Jacob. “It’ll be less people, and more personal. The events won’t be overbearing. We’ve been listening to people and the biggest complaint we’ve heard is the concerts were too loud, and with all the strobe lights, people had to leave. It’s going to be styled off a speak-easy.”
Natives of Russell, the brothers say the Fox has always been at the heart of downtown Hays and their hope is to carry on that tradition.
Jacob isn’t sure, but he thinks the last movie he saw at the Fox was the 1997 motion picture epic, the Titanic. When approached by the current owner, Hays farmer and businessman Allen States, they didn’t hesitate because they love the building and the price was realistic, Jacob said.
He calculates their investment will be under $800,000 when the Uptown Fox opens.
Rather than being a restaurant that tries to turn tables, they’ll be open every day of the week and they want guests to stay and linger. The Fox will no longer be available for rent.
The Proffitt brothers try to do at least one or two projects a year in Hays, they said, and they anticipate more downtown.
“We see Main Street going backwards right now and we have some ideas to fix it and it starts with the Fox, it’s been here so long,” Jacob said. “If we can get it going, I’d love to see it on Friday and Saturday nights, people might come here to eat an appetizer and then go to Gella’s to eat, or come here afterward and have a bourbon and a dessert.”
They get hit up a lot on Facebook with ideas for businesses, he said, and they also mentor other business owners, as well as sometimes join in as silent partners. Jacob says they’re interested in about anything if they think they can make it a valuable business.
“Our goal is to build Hays. And we don’t want to do it alone, we hope other people get motivated,” Jacob said. “I never plan on leaving. I’ll be here til I die.”
The brothers’ mom grew up in Liebenthal, where their grandfather owned the liquor store in the building that is now home to Pat’s Beef Jerky.
“What I’ve learned in business is you do what you say you’re going to do, do the best you can do, and you treat people right,” Jacob said. “At the end of the day that’s what makes you successful.”