The Plaza's newest restaurant will open early for espresso and close down late with music and drinks, and owner Elijah Katkin hopes it will serve as a locals gathering house. The Brickroom is set to open to the public by Aug. 1, occupying the space where Alex's Plaza Restaurant and Bar operated for more than 25 years before closing in January. "We're really excited about this space and we feel very lucky to have the opportunity to take it over," said Katkin, 34, who co-owns the Brickroom with his mother, Gina Katkin. The second-story restaurant was completely gutted, leaving only the hood in the kitchen, and redesigned with a more open, friendly configuration. A larger granite bar replaced the business's old bathrooms, leaving more room around the building's front windows for a stage and dancing space than before. An auxiliary dining room that was seldom used by Alex's was transformed into larger, more modern bathrooms. Katkin's family owns Papaya Living downstairs from the Brickroom, and already shared a landlord with the owners of Alex's when the restaurant closed last winter. Katikin said they were in a unique position to take over the building because of their existing relationship with the landlord, and they worked hard to preserve the integrity of the 150-year-old building while remodeling it. "I think the community will receive it well, at least I hope they will," said Katkin. "We have done everything we can to reinvigorate the space with new energy." A heating and air conditioning system was installed in the building, and the restaurant is now ADA compliant, Katkin said. Brickroom will operate from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily as a counter service, selling coffee and light breakfasts, and then switch to table service from 3 p.m. until a late night closing. A small elevated stage area in the corner of the main dining room will offer live music on some nights, Katkin said, though Brickroom won't have as much live music as Alex's. Katkin described the menu as traditional American food with some modern elements. To help pick menu dishes, Katkin took a trip to Portland with his chef and front of house manager, eating at 35 restaurants in four days to get ideas. "It was really a great way to see what the foodies were doing and find some inspiration," he said. The restaurant will serve lots of small plates and encourage people to eat "family style" by sharing the plates, Katkin said. The Brickroom signed a 10-year lease with the option of adding 10 more years to it, and Katkin said he's hoping to have a strong presence in downtown Ashland. "My intention is to be here for the long run, I want to get the right first impression," he said. "We want to be Ashland's gathering house — from coffee to cocktails." Katkin said that 85 percent of the staff had been hired already, and he planned to spend Tuesday conducting interviews for the last few positions. A soft opening is planned for as early as this weekend, with a public opening expected for next weekend. Teresa Ristow is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email her at email@example.com.