The Livery Stable, rooted in history, offers unique atmosphere

Posted on August 23, 2013 by


Trying to establish a unique bar and restaurant in a city well-known for its quality and quantity of dining options can be a difficult task. But that’s exactly what cousins Ian Dugger and John McIlhenny hope they’ve accomplished with The Livery Stable.ian, © Cville Niche

Tucked away between the former Vinegar Hill Theatre and Omni Hotel, near the corner of West Market Street and Old Preston Avenue, The Livery Stable is one of the area’s newest restaurants with a long, rich family history.

bar stools, © Cville NicheDugger and McIlhenny’s great-grandfather, Dr. William Cox, acquired the property in 1849 and used it for a livery stable, which housed and rented out horses and carriages. The property later became the site of The A&P Grocery Store in 1939.

The property has undergone several transitions since The A&P closed, but Dugger and McIlhenny decided it was time to recapture the piece of family history. The cousins, who grew up in Florida, devised a plan to create a modern version of the livery stable and relocated to Charlottesville in 2010.

“We’ve pretty much been working on this place for two-and-a-half years,” Dugger said during a recent interview in the rustic restaurant and bar with tables made out of old shipping crates and most of the wood brought in from the family’s farm in West Virginia.

Dugger likens the basement establishment to a pub or tavern. He said the idea was to build something with a cool vibe that offers a cozy atmosphere, a variety of drink concoctions (such as the Headless Horseman served in a copper mug) and comfort food at affordable prices.

“We wanted to build something kind of off the beaten path,” he added. “We just noticed what they were missing on the Mall.”

The Livery Stable can be hard to find for anyone strolling along the Mall, but the horse’s head mounted on the brick wall outside is fairly easy to spot.

In an effort to appeal to the after-work and late-night crowds, as well as others in the restaurant industry, The Livery Stable is open from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. every day with food available until 1 a.m.

crazylegsThe “Feed Bag” consists of a variety of appetizers called “Pony Bites,” as well as flat breads, pork shanks and sliders.

“The pot roast sliders will knock your socks off,” Dugger was quick to point out.

To help quench curiosity, the cousins have even printed the pronunciation and definition of a livery stable on the wall near the bar, along with all the menus.

So, with a common vernacular, cozy atmosphere and farm-friendly fare, the cousins are attempting to bring Charlottesville into the family – and the stable.

tack room © Cville Niche

rollin in the hay, © Cville Niche

bathrooms, © Cville Niche

bartender, © Cville Niche

Photography: Katerina Diplas