What you may not guess without being told is that the guitarist,
"I like doing this more than playing concerts," said Lyons, an accomplished musician and hard-core outdoor sportsman who has regularly regaled
Once in a great while we hear of a busboy or dishwasher rising to the position of restaurant owner, and Lyons has done those jobs too. But a solo restaurant musician is often paid only in tips; for one of their number to do it begs for an explanation.
Lyons credited his recent acquisition to his own frugality and getting a good deal. But it's also clear that he loves the place where he's played three or four nights a week for the past 28 years.
"I want to carry it on so it's exactly the same as it was with
"George" is Giorgio Chrimat, the Italian immigrant who created and operated
Lyons' own father introduced his son to music and outdoor excursions back in
The wide-open spaces drew him west and north to
"I liked it so much I moved here," Lyons recalled.
His first job in
He picked up the instrument after hearing his brother, in the bedroom below his, strumming
"I was a Deadhead," he confessed. "I started taking classical lessons to improve my finger-picking chops."
He had always liked the classical music his father played at home. Now he discovered he loved classical guitar repertoire. At the
One of the things that attracted him north was the relatively small population of musicians, which he suspected might mean less competition.
That guess turned out to be a good one. He was recruited by
Around 1986, he heard that the Italian eatery at Arctic and International might be looking for a musician, so he took his record to Chrimat. He'd barely begun his pitch when Chrimat said, "When can you start?"
Thus began a long relationship during which Lyons became as much a part of the place as the wine bottles lining the walls, as much a part as the sign declaring, "Garlic breath is sexy."
"I started helping, putting things away after we closed, busing tables, prepped a little bit," Lyons recalled. "After two years he started paying me.
The gig left him with time for one of his other enthusiasms (he has several; get him started on English poetry), challenging himself in
About two years ago, a different challenge arose when Chrimat grew ill.
"For all of us, there was the question of what's going to happen," Lyons said. "People wanted to carry on."
Different proposals were floated involving investments by several employees but by the beginning of this year other participants had dropped out and Lyons, with Chrimat's encouragement, decided to go it alone.
Connectivity, continuity and loyalty to customers was always a goal for Chrimat. When a
He sold the business once before, around 2001, to open a new restaurant in
Lyons said he leans heavily on Chrimat's long-time staff, the waiters, executive chef
"It's important for people who ate here last year and had a good time to know that they'll get exactly the same thing when they come back this year," he said. The dishes will keep being done separately, the chocolate mousse and other desserts prepared in house. There might be more catering in the wings, he said, and the possibility of hosting parties in the dining room on Mondays and Tuesdays, when the restaurant is closed.
Chrimat sold his restaurant to Lyons for the price of an average
"I live fairly simply," he said. He's occupied a humble condo in south Turnagain almost since he got here. "My hobbies are cheap. I like to read, hike and play the guitar. I have no family."
But he has found something like a family at
The custom, in which Lyons partook on nights when he performed, saved him the expense of dinner several nights each week.
An inevitable bonding occurs when you sit and eat with someone for 28 years in a row.
"We're all like family," Lyons said. "I think
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