Sticky Lips on Culver to reopen as ‘Sticky Soul and BBQ’

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The re-branding comes after the business closed...

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — It might not look like it, but a revamped restaurant at the corner of Culver Road and Atlantic Avenue in Rochester will be open for business on February 20.

This building doesn’t have a name emblazoned across its facade. Most Rochesterians know it as the former home of Sticky Lips BBQ. Current owner of the building, Irondequoit native Howard Nielsen says it might soon have a new name.

“We think ‘Just Off the Avenue,’ because we’re just off Park, East, Atlantic, and University — so we’re ‘Just off the Ave.,'” Nielsen said.

That unofficial name for the building comes after eight years of Nielsen’s ownership. Nielsen owns the Sticky Lips BBQ brand and restaurants. He opened the initial location on the corner of Atlantic and Culver in 2004. Following the original’s success, he opened up the Juke Joint location in Henrietta. Then an opportunity arose.

“And the owner of the building here put it up for sale,” Nielsen said. “We only had two more years left on our lease, and as a defensive move, because I really wanted to keep this business thriving, we bought the building.”

Wanting to build on the original Sticky Lips’ success, Nielsen wanted a bar and live music. In 2018, they opened a stage they had constructed. Nielsen says the move was “ten years too late,” and not long after:

“I made the gut-wrenching decision to shut it down,” Nielsen said.

However, things changed, with love and support from the neighborhood.

“They wanted to see us come back, and they really missed it, and I felt an obligation,” Nielsen said. “Since I own the building, maybe there’s something I can do about it.”

Nielsen says the restaurant business has changed, and after the initial closing of the original Sticky Lips, he wanted time to reevaluate. The new joint will be back to the original size of the business, a far cry from the 10,000 square feet it had grown to, but now with a new twist:

“We wanted to separate it from the original Sticky Lips,” Nielsen said. “And the new name is going to be Sticky Soul and BBQ.”

“The food theme is soul food, good for the soul,” said “food creator” Trish Gallagher. “We have collard greens, cabbage, and all that great stuff. We have those smokers in the back, so we’ll be smoking all of our own meats … We’re going to do a lot of smoking.”

The joint’s two new “food creators” and partners Tommy Fulton and Gallagher, both of whom will serve as chefs, chip in on the unique menu.

The service will be a little different too. They will still have a dining room, but there will only be counter service. You’ll be able to dine in or get take out, and Nielsen says delivery is on the way too. He says it’s in line with the times, and customers might save a little bit on bypassing tips.

“We’re really looking forward to our new venture,” Nielsen said.

Nielsen discusses the development of the rest of the building:

Nielsen says the prior landlord had a gold and silver business in back, and wanted to make the front understated.

“The building went up for sale six months after I opened up the Juke Joint,” Nielsen said. “Which was just about everything we had ever spent in there.”

Using Sticky Lips to anchor the building, he thought the building as a destination area.

It’s close to 490, and it’s near other popular areas in Rochester. Using his experience in the building trades, he addressed the back first, and brought in new tenants.

First was The Lost Borough Brewing, then Photo City Improv (now owned by his son, Danny), and then Compass Cycle.

Not too long after, Lash Doll opened, and then ROAR made a huge splash last month. Along with the Sticky Soul and BBQ, Nielsen is looking to add another unique business:

“After them is Josh with Better Together Dog Park,” Nielsen said. “It’s an indoor dog park, with a small bar. We’re really looking forward to it, it’s going to be the first of its kind in Rochester.”

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