CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — A pair of Champaign business owners’ dreams are coming true with the looming opening of their new restaurant and music venue.

Weird Meat Boyz, owned by Doug Hodge and Ian Nutting, is opening The Space in the former Merry Ann’s at 1 East Main Street. It will include a bar and restaurant where food will be cooked from scratch, a hot sauce and condiment tasting area and a live music area featuring local and touring punk and metal bands. Food service is planned to start with lunch and dinner five days a week, but there are plans to add breakfast and brunch service at a later date.

The hot sauce tasting area reflects Weird Meat Boyz’ roots as a hot sauce company. Starting in early 2021, Hodge and Nutting raised money on Kickstarter to launch the company. But that was only their entrance into the professional food world; they wanted to cook and serve food to people in a restaurant that also doubled as a music venue. They expected that goal would be achieved far into the future.

“Whelp,” they said. “Life happens fast.”

Within a few months, demand exploded following the 2021 farmers market season. They began serving food out of a truck, cooking barbeque and smash burgers. That success landed them a spot in the Artisan Cup and Fork chef’s competition, which they won, granting them an opportunity to serve out of Collective Pour on the weekends.

While they were doing this, they also started booking punk bands to perform in local bars and organized music festivals that brought bands to Champaign to perform.

“While we are eternally grateful for this string of generous opportunities to explore cooking, booking, and wholesale sauce life, the boyz are ready for the next step,” Hodge and Nutting said.

They’re opening The Space to combine their hot sauce, food and show booking. This also allows them to expand beyond the limitations they currently face: their hot sauce can only be sampled at farmers markets, their food can only be served in takeout containers on the weekends and their shows can only happen when bars and venues allow so.

“The Space is a dream come true for us,” Nutting said. “We have a chance to bring our sauce, our food and our music to the heart of downtown Champaign. This community has embraced us from our very first farmer’s market and we really believe we can do something great right here in central Illinois.”

No opening date has been announced yet. Weird Meat Boyz is also collecting donations to help with the opening. A donation of $150 will also grant membership to their Space Club for 2023, which grants exclusive access to benefits like an eight-course tasting menu. They are designing that menu with wine pairings by their new business neighbor Chef Thad of Ladro Enoteca.