Expect yet another cool venue to pop up inside the Ice House complex (217 East Main St.) this summer when a whiskey and cigar bar opens its doors.
Its name is currently undecided, but according to Main Street Café general manager Len Stevens, “Vice Whiskey and Cigar Bar” or “Churchill’s Whiskey and Cigar Bar” are finalists.
“It’s yet undecided, but we’re leaning toward Vice,” said Stevens. The longtime owner of L&N Wine Bar and Bistro joined the business five months ago after serving several months as GM at MilkWood. “When I came here, (building co-owner) Mike Schnell showed me this room and asked me what I would put in it if I had the chance to create something. And when I said a whiskey bar, he immediately said, ‘Me, too.’”
The list of sippable goodies is impressive: 130 bourbons; 100 single malt scotches; 50 rums; multiple Irish whiskeys; single-village mezcals and more. Cocktails—including some barreled—will be on the menu, but they won’t be emphasized quite as much as at bars dedicated to that craft.
“We want this to be a place for whiskey exploration, where people can come learn and where our service staff will be highly knowledgeable,” Stevens said. “We’ll sell 1 ounce portions so people can try more things and not wash out their palates.”
Stevens insists the bar will be relaxed, free of bourbon boorishness, whiskey wonkitude and scotch snootiness. If a guest asks about the difference between an Armagnac and a Cognac, servers will explain it kindly.
Décor will be relaxed as well, he added, “because the last thing I want to have is the look and feel of a hunters club for men. … It won’t be your average bar, of course, but we want everyone to feel comfortable.”
Especially the city’s restaurant employees, who he’s considering giving 25 percent discounts on their purchases in order to turn them into whiskey evangelists at their workplaces.
“I want them in there trying things that—when they go back to the places where they work—they’ll talk about them,” he said. “The more exposure they get to great whiskeys, the higher the (knowledge) is raised in town.”
The approximately 2,000-square-foot space is a located directly behind Main Street Café. Currently gutted, it will be divided into three basic and unequally sized sections: a cigar humidor; a large bar area with stools, couches and tables; and a cigar smoking section sealed off by glass and ventilated to ensure smoke doesn’t travel into the bar. Eventually a raised patio will extend off of the smoking section and over the parking lot.
Foodservice will remain focused on the Café, but should anyone work up an appetite during all that serious sipping, there will be a small bites menu.
Stevens says a late spring or early summer opening is desired, and since the building’s owners are Schnell (owner of Schnell Contractors) and Dave Steinbrecher (engineer, owner of Derek Engineering), the construction process surely will be expedited. But as is common in the restaurant business, permitting and inspections can slow things down beyond an owner’s control.
“We’re hoping for June, but you know how that goes,” Stevens said. “Realistically, we’re probably talking July.”