This feature is part of a CN&R special report: Entrepreneurs 2022: Reinvention.
Brandon Squyres has a deep connection to Naked Lounge. He cherishes memories of nights out front of the downtown space when he couldn’t get into Juanita’s, the now-defunct venue that was next door, because of his age or the crowd size. He appreciates how, over two decades, the coffeehouse and performance space became just as much of a community fixture.
Multiple times, Squyres told Naked Lounge owners that if they ever thought of selling the business, he’d buy it. Well-known as a 2013 contestant on The Amazing Race, he’s a local musician and contractor who also owns a Chico-based firm that manufactures fire suppression equipment.
He got the chance in the summer of 2020, when Naked Lounge closed amid the pandemic lockdown. Not looking to take on the venture right then, Squyres approached friend Michael Lee, co-owner of the downtown restaurant Momona, who came onboard with his Momona partners, Sarah Schlobohm and Mahina Gannet.
They renovated the space and opened their Naked Lounge that October.
“We all have full-time things; [so,] the more the merrier to share the responsibilities,” Squyres said Sunday morning (Jan. 30), seated on a couch in the elevated back room that doubles as a stage. “We worked out a structure where all of us are four equal partners. Sometimes it may be a little hard, because we have to get four people to agree on everything, but I think in the long run it makes us stronger because we look at every decision from four different angles.”
The owners decided on “improving what was there” as their aesthetic. They replaced flooring and exposed original brickwork on the walls. They reconfigured the back to move the performance area from the entry and to expand the kitchen; the small galley—“like the inside of a taco truck,” Squyres said—will allow Naked Lounge to serve toasts, bowls, sandwiches and soups once approved by health officials.
Posters from historic Chico shows decorate the floor of the stage room, which also features two chandeliers refurbished by Squyres’ wife, Michelle Camy, who’s completing a stained-glass window they’ll mount in a lit doorframe at the rear.
“I always loved the idea of music downtown,” Squyres said. “I wanted the place to stay here, and I wanted there to be a place where we could play music [shows] whenever I wanted. There aren’t that many places in town that will still do all-ages music….
“We’re four people who didn’t have coffee business knowledge,” he added, “but we tried really hard to learn it and surround ourselves with people who really do care about the product and community instead of just one or the other.”
Naked Lounge, 118 W. Second St., (530) 965-5908, nakedloungechico.com
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