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Founder of famed downtown eatery Monkey Barrel has died
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A sign is seen taped to the window of the former Monkey Barrel restaurant downtown Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018, thanking Monkey Barrel founder Chris Jones. Jones died Oct. 25, 2018. Most recently an Italian restaurant, the building now sits vacant. - photo by Jeff Gill

Chris Jones, the co-founder of Monkey Barrel, a former downtown Gainesville eatery known for its pizza, wide array of craft beers and garlic knots, died Thursday, Oct. 25.

He was 50 years old. Jones died peacefully at Emory University Hospital surrounded by family and close friends, his obituary states.

A Gainesville native and North Hall High School graduate, Jones and his wife Mary opened the restaurant at 111 Washington St. NE in August 1993, six months after they married. They owned Monkey Barrel for more than 20 years.

“One of Chris’ goals was to improve the local music and food scene, and he is credited with bringing craft beer to Gainesville,” Chris Jones’ obituary states. “It has been said that ‘If you play the Monkey Barrel, you’ve made it.’”

"Really what it is — it's not a chain, it's not just a pizza restaurant, it's not just a bar," Jones said in a 2009 interview with The Times.

“It's funny. I feed people lunch up here, and people come and drink beer here. Then they come with their families, and the kids play games and run around. And then the drinkers come in, then the band comes in. And it's kind of like it changes all day long."

His obituary states: “He will always be known for his lasagna, his barbeque sauce and for getting people out of the Monkey Barrel with his leaf blower.”

The Monkey Barrel closed Dec. 31, 2016, under Albert Reeves, who had been the owner since 2013. A fine dining Italian restaurant, Novella’s, opened at the site in September 2017 and closed in July 2018.

Today, the building sits vacant.

Jones also was passionate about the outdoors.

He was an avid whitewater canoeist and enjoyed fishing on the beach. According to his obituary, donations can be made to Chattahoochee Riverkeeper in lieu of flowers.

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Chris Jones
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