When Kenny Andreozzi first opened Commonwealth Tap wine and whiskey bar in Norton Commons, he knew it was a bit of a risk. He gave up a solid career in sales for a wine importer and distributor to become the owner-operator of the establishment. In fact, he said his wife thought he was crazy at first.
“But I believed in it,” said the 38-year old who was born in Rhode Island but grew up in Louisville. Now in its fifth year of operation, Commonwealth Tap began when Andreozzi met up with two entrepreneurs (already the owners of a wine shop in Norton Commons called Four Flights) who had decided they wanted to do something different.
“We all felt like there was a captive audience from the wine shop, and we could bring them along with us to this new venture,” said Andreozzi, a sommelier and certified wine expert.
Andreozzi said the original concept for the wine and whiskey bar was that it would be “wine-strong.”
“We wanted to concentrate on retail and by-the-glass wine. The idea was that someone would come in, discover something new that they liked and take a bottle home. And, of course, have fun doing it.”
While wine is still a core of Commonwealth Tap, Andreozzi said in five years the bar has evolved to incorporate bourbon and other cocktails. “We’re here in Kentucky, and of course we all love bourbon, so we have a great choice of those. We also have Japanese whiskey, Scotch whiskey, Canadian Rye whiskey. We have over 300 different bottles now — we began with 30,” said Andreozzi. Last year, the bar was voted “Best Bourbon Bar” by LEO’s Reader’s Choice Awards.
One thing that makes Commonwealth Tap unique, said Andreozzi, is you won’t find wine or bourbon flights. “I much prefer talking to customers and having a discussion about what they like, and putting something together just for them. Nine times out of ten we turn them on to something they really love. It’s all about enjoyment,” he said.
According to Andreozzi, wine and beer can be complicated, so he invites customers to come in to explore and try different things. While the establishment gets its share of visiting clientele, Andreozzi said that because it’s in a walkable neighborhood, the bar also serves as a local gathering place that encourages conversation.
“There’s a strong sense of community here.” he said. “One neighbor comes by after work for a drink or two, and then another neighbor comes by for a beer, and the two sit next to each other though they’ve never met. They strike up a conversation and I’m right in the middle of it. I see this happen every day. These are some of my favorite interactions.”
According to Andreozzi, the bar is constantly changing its offerings but focuses on high-quality wine, beer and bourbon. The bar offers cheese and charcuterie to accompany the potables, but not pub grub, said the owner.
“What the bar is at its core,” said Andreozzi, “is a nice place to relax. Maybe it’s girls’ night or a group of guys who want to watch the game, but the volume is never high. It’s not a sports bar. We have a casual and relaxed atmosphere, and a knowledgeable staff that is not pretentious,” he said.
Andreozzi said he draws customers from the nearby bed and breakfast, during Home-A-Rama or from events like the upcoming art festival or summer concert series that introduces visitors to the bar. “We often get Googled or discovered that way as well.”
So far, Commonwealth Tap’s strategy of offering personal service and focusing on high-quality products has paid off. “I feel great about our success; growing a little every year – the products, staff, patrons – have all grown,” said Andreozzi. “We keep getting better at what we do.”
Norton Commons resident and local business owner Tad Thomas said he has been a patron at Commonwealth Tap since he moved to the neighborhood in 2014. “I like the bourbon and wine selection, the friendly and helpful service and the convenience to home and work; all that is true. But, mostly I like it because I can stop in any time and see good friends. Commonwealth Tap is the heart of a great neighborhood.”