Black Mountain rooftop bar the Bell Tower opens above Open Oven breakfast spot

Ezra Maille
Black Mountain News
Steve and Stephanie Paulson, owners of Open Oven, decided to open the Bell Tower above their first brick and mortar restaurant.

The Bell Tower, Black Mountain's new rooftop bar, opened its doors under the guidance of long time Swannanoa residents Steve and Stephanie Paulson.

"We've kind of been baby stepping it," Stephanie Paulson said. "We did Friday and Saturday two weeks in a row, and now it'll be five evenings a week."

After many years in the food truck business, the Paulsons opened Open Oven, a breakfast restaurant but soon recognized the need for more outdoor seating. Steve Paulson, who's background as a chef led to the food truck, said its been nice to come full circle and operate in Black Mountain given the town's proximity to Swannanoa.

The Bell Tower provides ample outdoor seating with a view of the surrounding mountains.

The Bell Tower first opened July 15. It began to open for brunch as extra seating for Open Oven, but the Paulsons soon began the transition to an evening rooftop bar. 

After redoing the roof of Open Oven, Steve Paulson said they planned to create an upstairs eating space but when the pandemic hit and outdoor seating became crucial, the Paulsons sped up their plans.

"We've noticed that even our little outdoor eating space downstairs, people really want to be outside, they don't want to be confined to the indoors," Stephanie Paulson said. "This opened up a whole new area for us."

Angela McAdams, the bar manager at the Bell Tower, prepares for an evening shift.

The Paulsons named the rooftop bar after Southern Bell, the phone company that previously occupied the building. Additionally, with the restaurant's location on Church Street, patrons can hear the gong of church bells. 

Following the theme, the Bell Tower showcases vintage telephones and even a walk-in telephone booth beside the bar. 

The restaurant offers specialty cocktails, mocktails, wine, beer and a small food menu. Though the kitchen closes at 9 p.m., Steve Paulson said he'd like to have the bar remain open a little later.

Despite setbacks due to contracting and the pandemic, Stephanie Paulson said the community has been very supportive. Steve agreed, saying the Bell Tower was long overdue.

Housed in the old telephone company building, the Bell Tower maintains its vintage style.

Only a few weeks old, Steve said both restaurants have been working through the adjustment, figuring out how operations will run and doubling the size of the staff. Using the same kitchen and some of the same staff as Open Oven, Stephanie Paulson said it's been a lot of work to make everything come together.

"We're still getting used to the rooftop for sure," Steve Paulson said. 

The Bell Tower is open Wednesday through Sunday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., at 102 Church St.