He jokes he has the attention span of a golden retriever. But with all the tasks Robert Lay is juggling to bring Red Stick Social to life, you can’t blame him.
The 30,000-square-foot entertainment venue at the
former Entergy site on Government Street—the first phase of a massive mixed-use development known as Electric
Depot—is set to open in February. It will include bowling lanes, a stage, a restaurant, rooftop patio, multiple bars and event space inside one long-abandoned building.
Lay spent almost a decade working for Stonehenge Capital in Baton Rouge, developing a passion for using historic tax credits to rehab old landmarks.
He had his eye on the Entergy site for years, even before the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority acquired it in 2013. After the Weinstein Nelson development team was tapped to reimagine the multiple abandoned buildings on its six acres, Lay reached out to them with his vision for turning the largest of those buildings into a multilevel entertainment venue.
“You don’t find stuff like this anymore,” Lay says. “There’s something about just taking these older buildings and repurposing them and giving back to the community. How many people drive up and down Government Street and look at this thing and go, ‘Man, that is just an eyesore’? And we are able to really bring it back into something people would be proud of.”
The LSU grad is currently based in Atlanta, and he is already eyeing similar projects to tackle in the Southeast region. But he’s still closely tied to Louisiana—his wife is from Covington, and they are expecting a child—and he won’t just move on once Red Stick Social’s doors open. He’s met with leaders at the TRUCE program just down the street to talk collaboration, be it internships or training for at-risk youth in hospitality and food services. And he’s a proponent of all the other activity happening in the neighborhood, like the historic Lincoln Hotel renovations.
It’s clear this high-energy developer just loves being a part of the action.
“Finding something that everybody is saying you’re crazy for taking on, understanding the challenges and putting a team together—that’s the challenge and the fulfillment I get out of this,” Lay says. “We sincerely believe this is going to be an overall positive for the neighborhood, and that’s the really fun part.” redsticksocial.com
CHATTING WITHN LAY
Your first job was: Cutting grass in high school
If you weren’t doing your current job, you’d be: A pilot. I’ve got my private pilot’s license, and I love to fly.
Advice you’d give your 18-year-old self: Do what you want to do. Do what your heart tells you to do and whatever drives you and motivates you. Never become complacent and never do anything just because somebody tells you to do it.
Something you hope to accomplish in 2019: I’ll have my first kid, so I need to step back a little bit and be a better delegator because when the kiddo comes around my priorities will have to change.
Click here to read about the rest of our People to Watch in 2019.
This article was originally published in the January 2019 issue of 225 Magazine.