You’ve got to love the courage of a man like Matthew Landan, who, on Saturday, Jan. 21, will open the doors to his new Haymarket Whiskey Bar, 331 E. Market St., for a soft opening with a band, with most of the historic building’s renovations done—and only himself behind the bar.
“I’m the kind of guy who’s willing to say let’s do it and see how well we do,” said Landan, who’s held a liquor license at the space since December. Its grand opening is set for Feb. 4.
The Tunesmiths and the Discount Guns will play that night. “It doesn’t have to be perfect for me to get it started and figure it out. People will understand.”
Landan, who operated Derby City Espresso in the same building for almost five years, said had he not added craft beer to his coffee program, he’d have closed the first year.
The space’s success as an ersatz beer bar helped him realize the East Market corridor lacked a serious bar not attached to a restaurant, not to mention one featuring live music.
But Haymarket Whiskey Bar will be no ordinary bar, Landan said. Spirits will be served straight, with water, neat or on the rocks. Don’t come looking for cocktails.
“I’m not a mixologist, so I’m not making cocktails or inventing them,” he said. “With Haymarket, we really want to say about spirits, ‘Taste this by itself. Let it open up. Sip on it and drink it slowly. Experience it as it is.’”
The bar will feature 50-plus whiskeys from around the world, a smaller selection of vodkas, rums, gins, grappa and absinthe. Wine will also be available, and the beer inventory will include 50 craft bottles and seven rotating taps (at least one draught will always be a local brewery’s).
As a general rule, Landan said food won’t be served, though special events may include charcuterie and cheese.
“Food’s an incredible hassle to manage, so we’re letting everyone else fight for that business,” he said. “We’ve got a Jimmy John’s on the corner that’s open until 4 in the morning on weekends. I have no problem with people bringing a sandwich in to eat while they watch the show.”
The space, he added, will hold about 50 people and include a mix of seats and benches. He said he wants to keep the space as wide open as possible so people can see the live bands playing there some four nights a week.
“I want to keep the focus on American music, so you can expect some Bluegrass,” Landan said. “There won’t be anything else like it in the area, that’s for sure.
Haymarket Whiskey Bar will be open Tuesday-Saturday from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.