RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — While it’s named after a famous mobster, Teets is no speakeasy.
Teets Bar, from brothers Bates and Anthony Battaglia, looks to join Glenwood South in a big way. The new bar is named after their grandfather, Chicago mobster Sam “Teets” Battaglia, who as a teenager joined the Chicago Outfit with Al Capone and Johnny Torrio, according to the bar’s website, eventually working his way up to boss.
Teets will take over the former Noir nightclub on Glenwod South, which closed during the COVID-19 pandemic after shuttering for months. The new gangster bar will be around the corner from the Battaglias’ longtime sports bar Lucky B’s, which has been open for more than 15 years.
Bates Battaglia is a former NHL player who played six seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes. He and his brother, Anthony, won Season 22 of CBS’ reality competition show, “The Amazing Race,” in 2013.
When the Noir space opened up, Bates Battaglia said he saw it as an opportunity to share a notorious piece of family history. He sees the bar as a tribute to a first-generation American struggling to make a better life for his family.
“Obviously, it’s a pretty unique story,” Bates Battaglia said of his grandfather. “The bar is meant to be a good little tribute to him and my dad.”
“Teets” Battaglia died before the Battaglia brothers were born, and Bates Battaglia said his parents largely kept the streak of infamy quiet while they were growing up.
“It wasn’t something we actually knew about as youngsters,” Bates Battaglia said. “We didn’t really know him, only through stories and then more stories.”
Those stories include how “Teets” got his nickname, according to the bar’s website. When working as a debt collector in the Chicago mafia, he threatened to punch someone in the chest.
In its telling, the bar frames its teenage namesake as making difficult choices during difficult economic conditions.
“Being a first-generation American, it wasn’t easy finding work, especially at that time of economic hardship,” the bar says on its website. “In order to feed his family as well as make it in a new world ‘Teets’ took a different path than most in his situation. … Teets is a bar that comes from a hard-working family that did whatever it took to get where they wanted to be.”
The rise of cocktail bars and speakeasies can be traced back to the Prohibition-era bars of passwords and secret entrances leading to well mixed drinks. Teets will not be a nod to that, Battaglia said, instead steering more towards a sports bar.
The Teets bar should open in early May, Battaglia said, with large front and back patios and large TVs for gathering to watch the games. He said current and former Canes players are welcome anytime.
SHARING FAMILY HISTORY
While Bates Battaglia played in other cities during his career, he said he always returned to the Triangle in the off season and considered it his home.
“I fell in love with the town and the people,” Battaglia said.
As a bar, Battaglia said Teets will use the family history as a jumping off point, but it won’t be a mobster-themed bar. There will be old photos and memorabilia, but not a shrine, he said.
“It’s not like a museum or anything,” Battaglia said. “We wanted to just let the public into our family history a little.”
At a decade-and-a-half old, Lucky’s is one of Glenwood’s older bars. The pandemic was particularly difficult for North Carolina’s bar industry, which was largely prevented from operating for most of the last year.
“It was brutal; we got destroyed,” Battaglia said of Lucky’s. “We were down 80 percent. Now that it’s lightening up, we’re seeing people come back, which is a huge break for us.”
Over the last month-and-a-half, once the state’s alcohol curfew was lifted and capacity restrictions were eased, Glenwood Avenue quickly returned to its pre-pandemic state, with crowds of revelers lining up for the corridor’s bars. Battaglia said he wants to see Teets in the middle of that.
“We want this to be a nightlife destination,” he said. “It will be a lot like many of the other bars on Glenwood. Places to gather and get rowdy, but not too rowdy. I hope this is a new destination for downtown.”