Natural Fit: Lucius Cyrus Opens a Bar in Gateway Plaza

After two decades at staples like Person Street and Neptunes, Cyrus conceived Natural Science as a neighborhood watering hole with classic cocktails, wine and beer.
by Catherine Currin  | photography by Forrest Mason

For almost a decade, Lucius Cyrus worked at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences as an exhibit designer. It just so happened that his friends had a band called Natural Sciences, too. “I always thought that would be a good name for a bar,” Cyrus says. 

In January, he made that vision a reality: Cyrus partnered up with the team at Person Street Bar to open his own spot, called (you guessed it!) Natural Science. Tucked in across from Dogwood Country Club in Gateway Plaza in the Woodcrest neighborhood, it’s meant to be a neighborly watering hole — whether or not folks happen to live nearby.  

Cyrus, the bar’s managing owner, is not new to the scene. If you’ve been to Raleigh favorites like Neptunes Parlor and Person Street Bar over the last two decades, you’ve probably seen him behind the bar. “It was a temporary thing at first, and it became something I enjoyed doing. I was relatively successful at it, too,” he says.  

When Cyrus was ready to open a space of his own, he saw an opportunity to fill a gap in the development at Gateway Plaza. “I like the vision of Henry Ward and the team at Loden Properties, and I love the way this part of town has changed and grown,” Cyrus says.

Opened in 2019, the development includes tenants like Union Special Bread, coworking space Raleigh Founded, Fiction Kitchen’s new iteration and the soon-to-open Mala Pata. 

“We became patrons and fans of Lucius and the entire Person Street Bar crew by virtue of its close proximity to our office,” says Ward, partner at Loden Properties, which is based in Mordecai. “We’re certain that Natural Science will foster a ‘third-place’ sense of belonging and contribute to the vibrancy and well-being of the neighborhood.”

The space is tucked away and private — a walk down the sidewalk behind Mordecai Beverage Co. — and Cyrus was intentional about creating cozy nooks inside, too. “There are little spaces within this much bigger space allowing for that bar-room experience,” he says. While they aren’t fully enclosed, the bar offers alcoves and rooms that offer things you might see at Person Street or Neptunes, like old video arcade consoles and bar games.

This will also allow the bar to be open while simultaneously hosting private events. “That way they won’t interrupt day-to-day business,” says Cyrus. “I want guests to walk in and know what to expect every time.” 

Architects from Provision Studio, which recently built out the new Locals Seafood space and the Rhodes Motor Lodge in Boone, worked on Natural Science’s design. The L-shaped bar is simple and functional, offering pockets of seating on either side of a copper counter for walk-up ordering. The shelves behind the bar arc into a wooden portico of sorts, a sculptural focal point that makes the large main room feel more intimate.

Cyrus sourced most of the furniture himself, channeling a 1970s office vibe with lots of dark wood and leather upholstery, plus mismatched side tables and lamps. “I liked that this furniture could have lived a long life before ending up here,” he says. The walls feature mixed-media pieces by local artists Ollie Wagner and Erin Ives.

As for the drinks, Natural Science offers simple takes on classic cocktails, a sophisticated wine program (developed with the help of Longleaf Lounge’s manager, Rebekah Hayes), plus a rotating selection of local beers.

“I’m not trying to overwhelm my bartenders — it’s not really a cocktail bar. It’s about making friends over drinks,” he says. “I’m all about developing relationships with people and making them feel comfortable and welcome.” 

This article originally appeared in the May 2024 issue of WALTER magazine.