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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Riverfront cocktail lounge and fry bar changes ownership 

WILMINGTON — After opening Sauce’d in downtown Wilmington in 2021, Courtney Osgood and her partner, Jeremiah Ramos, have sold the business.

READ MORE: Fry bar and cocktail lounge, Sauce’d, set to open on the Riverwalk

The lounge’s concept centered on a fry bar. Cocktails were carefully crafted, often whimsical, and thin, crispy air-fried potatoes were served with 10 homemade dipping sauces. 

“It was time,” Osgood said Wednesday, adding the end-goal was to always sell the establishment. “We’re happy to be leaving it in the hands of someone who cares about continuing the bar.”

Michael Fowler took over the acquisition for an undisclosed amount. DePersia & Associates represented the brokerage, which wrapped in eight weeks from its start at the beginning of February.

The announcement comes as Osgood revealed at the end of March Sauce’d would no longer serve fries due to House Bill 125. It passed last year, enacting health inspection requirements for bars serving food, just as it does restaurants. 

Previously, nightclubs could serve limited menus without a visit or monitoring from the health department. Now, anything that mandates temperature control is applicable to examination. 

“For us, it would have meant a financial implication,” Osgood said. “We would have had to invest more money and redesign the layout of our kitchen and change over some of our equipment to be commercialized. And then, of course, obtaining a food permit, etc., for the same return.”

The law was supposed to go into effect Jan. 1 but was pushed to March 27 and since has been extended further for bars to come into compliance by the first of October this year.

Fowler — who has lived in Wilmington for years — said he doesn’t plan changing much at Sauce’d, but will follow the new food laws and keep the fry bar. The entrepreneur came from Florida, where he ran an Irish restaurant, GoodTimes. This is his first business in Wilmington.

“We plan on finding out exactly what we need to do to get that started again,” he wrote to PCD in a text message last week. “We will make whatever changes we need to in order to be compliant with the new law.”

While the law change was part of the reason Osgood and Ramos decided to sell, it wasn’t the driving force. Originally from Boston, Osgood said she has been wanting to move further south for warmer temperatures and to be closer to family and friends. She has been traveling between Raleigh and Wilmington for two years now, after having moved to the Triangle in 2019.

“My mom is in Bradenton, Florida,” she said, “I just want to be closer and spend more time with her the older I get. She’s my best friend.”

Ramos has already moved to Tampa, where Osgood is considering to take up residence. She said while she loved North Carolina, she missed the excitement of a big city. Having once run a public relations and marketing company, Osgood plans to take some time off and regroup before potentially relaunching her business.

In the meantime, Sauce’d has never closed its doors through the transition. It opens Tuesday through Sunday, 3 p.m. to midnight, but Fowler said the hours could change as he gains more experience running the space and seeing what patrons want.

He has kept the Sauce’d staff and is considering hiring more people for the busy season. 

The customers are who Osgood says she will miss most. 

“I just completely underestimated that emotional connection,” she said about the sale. “It’s been frustrating on the side of maintaining a business and adhering to all the rules and pivoting literally every few seconds — that’s business. But my heart is in Wilmington and I feel like the people I met here will always be a piece of me. I’ve cried many, many tears over the course of the last few months because of those who supported us.”

Osgood said she had other buyers interested in the 224 S. Water St. space but was drawn to Fowler due to his experience in the field. 

“I wanted to be completely transparent with him — tell him what this business meant to me, what it means the community, the whole story behind it,” she said. “And since day one, Michael has been awesome.”

Aside from his knowledge within the industry, Fowler was drawn to the business because he loves downtown Wilmington.

“I love the Riverwalk in particular,” he wrote in a text.

The Sauce’d outdoor patio features more than a dozen tables on the Riverwalk, in view of the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge and sunsets over the Battleship North Carolina. Inside, 12 velvet stools line the bar, with two- and four-top tables dispersed throughout, and a lounge area offering a sofa and more seating. 

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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