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A new ‘eatertainment’ restaurant is taking over this space in downtown Gainesville
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Chef Rand Carswell of the Chattahoochee Grill is opening Decoy, a new entertainment restaurant, at the site of Elevate Performing Arts Center in downtown Gainesville this fall. - photo by Scott Rogers

A new venue to eat, drink and brandish one’s miniature golf or bowling skills will soon debut in downtown Gainesville.

Decoy, an upscale “eatertainment” restaurant, is slated to open inside the Walton Jackson Building at 123 Green St. in late fall of this year. 

Elevate Performing Arts Center, which currently occupies the space, will be vacating by June 30, along with Against the Clock, according to Jeff Payne, chairman of Capstone Property Group, which owns the building.

Capstone is also developing The National under construction at 111 Green St., which includes a seven-story, 130-room Courtyard by Marriott.

“Both the tenants are good tenants, there’s no problem with them. This is part of our mission to support the hotel and tourism and growth in the downtown area (by) providing something that wasn’t there before,” Payne told The Times. “There’s nothing bad about those businesses at all. (But) for that building to really reach its full potential, it needed something different that would attract people downtown and also serve as an attraction for people at the hotel.”

Elevate could not be immediately reached for further comment; Against the Clock declined to comment when contacted by The Times.

The new “eatertainment” concept is led by owner Rand Carswell, head chef of the Chattahoochee Grill at Chattahoochee Golf Club, and will neighbor the forthcoming North Georgia BBQ.

The 16,000-square-foot space is set to feature duckpin bowling, high-tech mini golf and golf simulator bays, public and private dining areas, a 40-plus-person bar and outdoor beer garden, in addition to an “elevated but approachable” culinary and beverage menu boasting intentionally plated cuisine and handcrafted cocktails.

“When it came to looking for a spot (for Decoy), it came down to, ‘Where can we fit this downtown?’” Carswell said. “It’s 16,000 square feet but, honestly, if we had 5,000 or 10,000 more, we would fill it up.”

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Chef Rand Carswell is pictured at his restaurant, Chattahoochee Grill, on Oct. 19, 2022. - photo by Scott Rogers

The “eatertainment” sector is among the restaurant industry’s fastest-growing, according to Carswell, and he feels Gainesville is at a point where it can sustain such a venue. 

Since moving back from Miami in 2021, the resounding refrain Carswell has heard among citizens is, “We have nothing to do here.”

Decoy, he hopes, will give them a new song to sing.

“Our goal was to check every box for anybody who comes into the downtown area,” he said.

About a year in the making, the concept is similar to Game Changer, a new family entertainment center and restaurant at Lanier Islands in South Hall, though on a smaller scale with the emphasis leaning heavily toward “top-notch” food and drinks. 

Despite its Green Street address, the restaurant’s main entrance will face Brenau Avenue, allowing patrons to walk directly into the dining area and bar rather than navigating through all the games in order to grab a bite or a nightcap.

“The intention is behind the food, the craft cocktails, the interior design with the added benefit of having all those games,” Carswell said. “We wanted to make that an elevated experience … where you almost feel like you’re in a bigger city by the way things are plated, the menu design and (how) the craft cocktails pair with everything. When you get your plate, you think, ‘This wasn’t just thrown together.’ Intention is the main word; everything has intention behind it.”

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