Standing on the rooftop of his new restaurant Stars, Executive Chef Nathan Thurston surveyed the surrounding landscape and rightly observed, “You can see so many things happening on Upper King Street right now from up here.”

A view from the roof
  • A view from the roof

If the boom on Upper King is any indication, Charleston seems to be lurching out of the mired economy, and nobody’s betting on that fact more than restaurateur Keith Jones and his partners at Stars. The building at 495 King St. is massive, spanning two floors and a large rooftop area.

So much work, so little time
  • So much work, so little time

And right now, that massive space is still practically gutted. Electricians were bustling around today, working on the wiring. Jones joked that they were currently open 24/7 with no cover charge, and we can bet he’s serious as a heart attack when it comes to riding herd on his contractors. They are aiming to open in time for the PGA event in August, which will be bringing tens of thousands of people to town for the biggest sporting event the Charleston area has ever hosted. It’s no wonder they want to be open in time to capitalize on that. The amount of money they are pouring into this renovation is obviously substantial.

The kitchen under construction
  • The “kitchen” under construction

This morning, a gaggle of girls (and one dude) from local media outlets and organizations were given a hardhat tour of the space. Lots of imagination and visual cues were required to help see how the space will look once complete.

Echoes of Leons: plans for the new sign
  • Echoes of Leon’s: plans for the new sign

The entryway, reusing the original foyer tiles from Leon’s, will be framed in glass and set back from the street about six feet. They’ve kept the hard awning, a feature common to buildings of the late ’30s period. The downstairs dining room will seat 150, with a large bar at the front and a chef’s table for eight back by the open kitchen.

Thurston was eager to show off his custom-made grill, which will not be hooked up to gas but will be stoked with wood. He will be cooking veggies, fish, and lots of meats on this thing. He will also be using a plancha, a steel plate grill that he promises will provide the perfect sear to anything he puts to it.

A man and his grill
  • A man and his grill

Upstairs, there’s a large banquet space, but the big attraction is that rooftop deck, which will have a bar, a wraparound garden, and a sweeping view of the neighborhood. Thurston says they will be serving drinks and lighter fare at the rooftop bar.

Overall, the ambition of this place is pretty impressive, and they’ve got to have their fingers crossed that they can actually get it done by August.

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