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Posted: Wednesday, September 5, 2018 2:30 pm

The original Local Republic in Lawrenceville was in an old gas station.

The much-beloved gastropub has since moved to a bigger building, but owners Chris Collin and Ben Bailey liked the look so much they installed garage doors on their new digs.

Their newest venture will keep with the theme.

Collin and Bailey, along with third partner Gary Hays, will be opening LR Burger in the old gas station on the corner of East Spring Street and Midland Avenue in downtown Monroe.

The restaurant will be a “Local Republic light” in Bailey’s words. They’ll be focusing more on burgers and less on big entrees in a similar, but smaller space to the location in Lawrenceville.

The move hardly came out of nowhere. Collin has deep ties to the area. His parents have lived here for 25 years. His kids go to George Walton. Even before he moved his family here in December, they’d still make it to Scoops at least once a week.

He’s seen it change drastically over the years.

“When I was in high school 15 years agothere wasn’t much on the square in downtown,” Collin said. “It’s very different now, with all the shops and places to hang out.”

So when Collin got the chance to expand on Monroe’s growing downtown, he jumped on it.

The move has been in the making for almost two years.

Collin and Bailey met with the Monroe Downtown Development Authority after Meredith Malcom, the president of Synovus in Monroe, suggested to Collin that he open a restaurant in Monroe. Their daughters play tennis together at George Walton.

The DDA owned the old gas station, and Collin and Bailey recognized the similarities between it and their existing establishments right away.

The duo, along with Hays,  officially bought the place from the DDA only a few weeks ago, although the move had been rumored for a while.

Plans for the new restaurant are still in the works. Bailey describes the aesthetic at Local Republic as “industrial chic,” with plenty of exposed wood, metal and brick. They’ll be aiming for a similar look with LR Burger, complete with garage doors.

Construction crews have already knocked down the old law offices behind the station to provide more space for the kitchen.

They’re also hoping to enclosed the front around the existing overhang and add a patio with group seating.

Even with the expansions, the final product will still be on the smaller side.

Bailey and Collin decided against opening another full-scale restaurant due to these space constraints. The original Local Republic location, a 1,400-square-foot building, tested the limits of running a classier, sit-down-and-order in such a small space.

Having solved that problem with the new, 5,00- square-foot building, they are not eager to try again.

So, as the name suggests, the menu will revolve around 10 to 15 burgers rather than full-bore entrees. Some of them will be favorites from the original Local Republic, while others will be new creations, like a shrimp and grits burger.

The rest of menu will contain things like pimento cheese, collard greens, mac and cheese and fries.

There will also be a limited bar, with 10 to 12 beers on tap and various wines, some in a can.

But it’s still early days. The group is still finalizing plans before they bid the project out to builders, something they hope will be done by January. From there, it will be a three- to four-month build, and hopefully, soon after that, there will be another old gas station serving up Local Republic food in East Georgia.

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