New Blackbird owner explains revamped concept

Meet Demetri Gregorakis, one of the new owners of Blackbird Kitchen & Bar, a restaurant on 9th Street downtown that closed suddenly in late September, sat idle for three months and counting, then suddenly began to show signs of new life in recent days.

The dead and buried Blackbird stirred up more than a little controversy as it circled the drain, especially the way its owners broke the news of its closing to employees. It was in an email that sort of went like this: Dear employees. You’re unemployed as of now. Thanks.

But that was then, this is now, and Gregorakis, 29, says he wants to be part of this new venture, making clear he played no part in the sudden closure and that now-notorious email. He will be equal partners with Carina Lampkin, the chef who is both admired and criticized for her creative bent and colorful personality.

Gregorakis says he has already reached out to those ex-employees, invited them back to learn about the new concept and, if they’re willing and able, return to work at Blackbird when it has its soft opening, which is slated for Feb. 5.

Gregorakis, whose background is in marketing and graphic design, clearly understands the dynamic of the place. He appreciates Lampkin’s strengths — she’s a dreamer — and understands her weaknesses — she’s a dreamer.

His role? He’ll be Mr. Pragmatic.

“I take Carina’s ideas out of the clouds and pull them down to earth,” Gregorakis said. “We have an understanding. She knows she can dream as much as she wants and I will never limit her. What I will limit her on is executable ideas.”

The other two partners entering the equation are Tony Priley, who owned a taphouse concept at the former River Rock Cafe on Eureka Road in Roseville; and Ron McGlumphy, who has 17 years exprience in the craft beer industry.

Gregorakis says Blackbird will overhaul its concept, tweak the floorplan and reopen as an entirely new restaurant. There will be a massive 44 beers on tap, including many exclusive offerings from small breweries; there will be a bar menu; and there will be fine dining featuring Lampkin’s creations. Lampkin is currently doing a stage at Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, headed by the charismatic and inventive Dominique Crenn, the only female Michelin two-star chef in the United States.

Out of the picture now are Lampkin’s step-father and mother, who were partners in the original venture.

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