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Cottonwood has a new owner and soon will have a new name.

Chez Hay owners Sean and Starr Carmichael took over Cottonwood’s lease at 440 S. 11th St. last month, with plans to turn it into a cafe, coffee shop and rental hall. Cottonwood, a cafe/bar/coffee shop, closed Dec. 23 after two years in operation.

“We don’t want to open a bar,” Sean Carmichael said. “We’ll probably focus on lunches, with earlier hours and not necessarily late-night hours.”

The Carmichaels are renovating the space and plan a soft opening, with no target date in mind. They also plan to reveal its new name soon.

“We had a desire to expand,” Sean Carmichael said. “We love that part of town, too.”

Chez Hay is a Lincoln caterer, which operates a large banquet hall on the second floor of the building at 201 N. 14th St.

“We’re hoping people will want to use the (new) venue for smaller catering, for events that are a little too small for the banquet hall,” he said.

Sean Carmichael, who earned a culinary degree from the Colorado Art Institute in Denver, operated kitchens at such Lincoln restaurants as Inn Harms Way and J. Finnegan’s before joining Lynn Hay at Chez Hay in 2003. Hay founded the catering business in 2001 and sold it to the Carmichaels in 2013.

The Carmichaels’ new venue will offer sandwiches, oven burgers, soups and daily specials such as pot roast and mashed potatoes. Sean Carmichael said he plans to let customers help him create a specific menu.

“We’re really excited about it,” he said. “I know I’m being a little vague, but we want to get some feedback from the community on what they want and what they want to eat.”

Reach the writer at 402-473-7213 or

On Twitter @LJSjeffkorbelik.


Features editor

Jeff Korbelik is the features editor and covers dining, performing arts, TV and local media. Follow him at @LJSjeffkorbelik.

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