Dave’s Is Back

Former Downtown Restaurateur Returns To Port Republic Road

Posted: January 20, 2014

Dave’s Taverna Express kitchen staff, Scott Schmitt (left) and Tom Hunt (center), prepare orders as owner Dave Miller (right) helps organize the kitchen Friday at the new Dave’s Taverna Express location on Port Republic Road. Miller plans to have the express fully operational in a week or so, with plans to expand the dining area as well as add a bar, outdoor patio and downstairs nightclub. (Photos by Jason Lenhart)
A sign attached to the counter advertises the hours of operation for Dave Miller’s new establishment. The new Dave’s Taverna Express, located along Port Republic Road, is currently open seven days a week from 4p.m. to 4a.m. for delivery and take-out.

HARRISONBURG — Dave Miller is back on the Harrisonburg dining scene six months after closing his iconic downtown restaurant amid bankruptcy proceedings.

Earlier this month, Miller reopened Dave’s Express in the take-out eatery’s original location at the corner of Port Republic Road and Devon Lane. The eatery currently offers a limited menu and hours at the location, formerly Cluckers Snak Shak.

The return of Dave’s American and Greek style food has been welcomed on social media by some James Madison University students, who returned to Harrisonburg earlier this month for the Jan. 13 start of the spring semester.

Miller plans to expand in the coming weeks and months, first reopening Dave’s Taverna for dine-in service at the space currently operating solely as Dave’s Express. He will then add outdoor eating with a new Taratsa and eventually offer a quieter, more upscale dining experience.

“It’s kind of complex. It’s a work in progress,” he said. “Basically, someone asked me the other day why I decided to reopen. I said, ‘I don’t think I had much choice. It’s my passion, my life. It’s the only thing I want to do. People have been really, really gracious and welcoming to us coming back.”

Unable to restructure under Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, Miller closed Dave’s Downtown Taverna at 121 S. Main St. in July after nearly two decades in business.

At the time, he pointed to a lack of parking in downtown as a major factor.

In an interview last week, he said he had spread himself too thin previously and had been involved with too many investments outside of Dave’s.

The restaurant, he maintained, was still very profitable.

“We’re really going to key in on getting back to the basics and do what we know works and not play around too much,” he said.

Miller became a downtown business owner in 1994, when he purchased Gus’ Taverna at the northwest corner of Main and Water streets.

He changed the restaurant’s name to Dave’s Downtown Taverna in 1996 and opened Dave’s Taverna Express the following year.

Dave’s Express operated at the Port Republic Road-Devon Lane location until 2007, when it moved west to 710 Port Republic Road.

In 2002, Dave’s Downtown Taverna moved to its previous location on Main Street just south of Water Street, which involved $1 million in renovations. The restaurant sat more than 450 in four separate dining areas.

It added a popular rooftop terrace, called the Taratsa, in 2006.

Miller filed for bankruptcy in December 2012, and the restaurant remained open until July 15.

Among his assets was the Downtown Taverna building, which was sold at auction in September to Harrisonburg businessman Giles Stone.

Stone plans to rent the restaurant but has declined to comment about who the tenant may be.

Contact Jeremy Hunt at 574-6273 or jhunt@dnronline.com

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