Arts & Entertainment Business News

Top bartenders rally at Neon’s Unplugged for leadership cause

Molly Wellmann and Leadership Northern Kentucky have partnered with Neon’s Unplugged and Covington’s Homeward Bound Runaway Shelter to host an event March 31 from 6pm to 9pm at the Famous Neon’s Unplugged. This night highlights the efforts and works of Cincinnati’s premier mixologists.

Wellmann, who is opening her own bar this summer, explains, “Bartending used to be such a respected occupation. It’s kind of fallen away from that, but we’re trying to bring that back.”

Wellmann, a Colerain High School graduate, got her start in cocktail mixlogy by convincing the owner of Chalk Food + Wine in Covington, that she could make classic and craft cocktails. “I totally fibbed,” she says. “I had no idea. I guess it was one of those ‘fake it until you make it’ things. I had to go home and Google ‘craft cocktails.’”

She was soon immersed in the world of cocktail mixology, surrounding herself with the history and lure of the once noble profession, which she now extols to many of her patrons. “I love to introduce new drinks for people to want,” she says. “That’s my favorite thing to do. I love to tell them the story behind their cocktail and give them an experience besides just getting a drink. After they’re done with the drink, they can take the story with them.”

The desire to introduce new things for people to want is what led Wellmann to Leadership Northern Kentucky (LNK), a group of 40 emerging regional leaders deeply immersed in a fundraising project to furnish the Homeward Bound Runaway Shelter in Covington. The leadership group, a program of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, approached Wellmann about helping out with a fundraising event. She ran with it, rallying some of the region’s top bartenders and mixologists to the cause.

Wellmann’s Molly’s Rose-Covered Pectorals is highlighted, as are original creations by Joshua Laichas of Milton’s Prospect Hill Tavern; Chris Blagg of The Famous Neon’s Unplugged; Bret Schulte of Down Under Tavern; Stuart MacKenzie of Mayday; Rom Wells of Rookwood Bar and Restaurant; Adrian Bakie of The Comet; K.K. Keller of The Lackman Bar; Kim Denzler of Mainstay Rock Bar; Sam Ginocchio of the soon-to-open A Tavola; and Julie Paul of Maribelle’s Tavern.

A book will be available at a March 31 public kick-off party at Neon’s (208 E. 12th Street). The cost will be $5, and thanks to the generosity of B+P+T Communication Solutions, xpedx, Lucky Rabbit Studio and photographer Tiffani Fisher, 100 percent of the proceeds will benefit Homeward Bound.

Additionally, from 6pm to 9pm on March 31, Neon’s will donate $2 for each of the book’s classic cocktails sold. And for the entire month of April, each of the businesses highlighted in the book will donate $2 for each of the featured cocktails it sells.

“What makes this project special is that, at its core, it’s about building community and making connections,” said Jody Robinson, a member of Leadership Northern Kentucky and chair of the March 31 event. “People are doing inspiring things everywhere. We only have to be willing to look, share and appreciate. Doing the same old thing – where’s the leadership in that?”

Molly Wellmann photograph by Thadd Fiala for UrbanCincy.

Arts & Entertainment News

Dogfish Head beer tasting at The Lackman tonight

The Dogfish Head Brewing Company will have their Midwest representative visit Over-the-Rhine tonight, from 6pm to 10pm, for a beer tasting event at The Lackman.  The event is part of The Lackman’s monthly tastings which previously have featured the beers of the Bell’s Brewery and Stone Brewing Company. The events have been well attended, so come early if you hope to grab spot at the bar or a table.

The Lackman’s manager, Tabb Harrison, says that he hopes to provide patrons the opportunity to sample a selection of beers from a featured microbrewery in one night during these monthly tastings. While it may be possible to try some of these beers individually on occasion throughout the city, it is certainly not possible to try all of the limited releases and rarities on-hand in a single night.

The following five Dogfish Head “off-centered ales for off-centered people” (as the company’s motto goes) will be the featured beers on tap for this month’s tasting event along with an additional surprise.

  • Palo Santo Marron- 12% abv, highly roasty, and malty brown ale aged on the Palo Santo wood.
  • Red n White- 10% abv, belgian-style Wit brewed with coriander and orange peel and fermented with Pinot Noir juice.
  • My Antonia- 7.5% abv, continually-hopped imperial pilsner.
  • Burton Baton- 10% abv, two ‘threads’ of beer: an English-style Old Ale and an Imperial IPA, a blend of the citrus notes from Northwestern hops melding with woody, vanilla notes from the oak.
  • 90 Minute Imperial IPA- 9% abv, A big beer with a great malt backbone that stands up to the extreme hopping rate.

Organizers of the Dogfish Head tasting event also say that there will be an additional surprise this month. It has not been confirmed, but a reliable source has alluded to a special animal, commonly affiliated with Dogfish Head, making a guest appearance. For those connoisseurs, and regular beer enjoyers like myself, not content to simply taste the beers will be treated to discussions with Dogfish Midwest representative Don Bichsel and Cavalier Distributing representative Brandon Hagedorn.

According to Harrison, pints of the featured Dogfish Head beers will run between $6 and $8, depending on the rarity of the brew.  Additionally, there is a possibility that a tasting flight of the brews will be available (this is TBD). The Lackman drink menus set up at each table and along the bar will be augmented with information about each of the featured brews.  Bottle opener key chains in the shape of Dogfish Head’s logo will be given out with pint purchases for free while supplies last.  Additionally, Dogfish t-shirts, hats, and pint glasses will be available for purchase.

Gourmet pretzels from Yankee Doodle Deli in Covington will be available, and both Senate and Lavomatic are immediately nearby ready to cure your post-delicious beer munchies (neighborhood insider tip: send a group ambassador to put your name in at your restaurant of choice as these tasting events have been known to correspond with busy nights at both neighborhood restaurants).

Future tastings at The Lackman (map) will typically take place during the last week of each month, and include no cover charge.

The Lackman photograph by Andrew Oehlerking

Business News

Relish Group closes Grammer’s

Grammer’s bar, established in 1872 and a veritable Over-the-Rhine institution, has announced its closure today. The 132-year-old establishment was known for years as a home away from home for Cincinati’s German population, hosting everyone from the Cincinnati Symphony to the Reds.

Grammer’s re-opened in the late winter of 2008, serving beer and a variety of German foods.

Martin Wade, owner of Relish Restaurant Group, purchased Grammer’s from former city councilman and Over-the-Rhine raconteur, Jim Tarbell, who had owned it since 1984. It was the oldest pre-Prohibition German restaurant to remain in Over-the-Rhine. Although tts recent history is one of hipsters and late night dance parties – a decidedly different crowd than the German Singing Baker society to which the space was once home.

Despite the differences, Grammer’s has been beloved by several generations as a unique neighborhood watering hole. Sources say Wade plans to reopen Grammer’s as a restaurant, though there are currently no details as to what type of restaurant and what timeline that would entail. Staff say that the news came as a shock to them after having worked worked throughout Bockfest weekend, serving scores of people and reportedly making a large profit.

“I’m shocked, insulted and disgusted that immediately following one of the most successful weekends in Grammer’s history, this iconic venue was deemed expendable,” said Gavin Richardson, sales and marketing manager for Grammer’s. “This is the end of an era.”

Jim Tarbell at Grammer’s photograph provided by Joe Wessels.

Arts & Entertainment Business News

Scene Ultra Lounge to kickoff Cincinnati Art Scene this Thursday

Scene Ultra Lounge will kickoff a new showcase of local artists and creativity this Thursday. The event, Cincinnati Art Scene, will take place every Thursday from 8pm to 2am.

Organizers say that Cincinnati Art Scene will feature a local artist each month and include open mic and DJ mix ups. Drink specials will also be offered on 360-Eco Friendly Vodka and Cincinnati-based Rivertown Brewery selections.

“I’m extremely excited to be featured as their first artist,” says Robin Ewers. “Born and raised in Cincy, I couldn’t be more flattered by the opportunities that have been given to me and I’m looking forward to helping other local artists get some exposure too.”

Scene Ultra Lounge is located at 639 Walnut Street in downtown Cincinnati’s Backstage Entertainment District. Those interested in participating in future Cincinnati Art Scenes can contact organizers ar (513) 381-4327 or

Scene Ultra Lounge photograph by UrbanCincy contributor Thadd Fiala.

Business Development News

Popular mixologist to settle in with establishment of her own in Over-the-Rhine

Molly Wellmann has finally settled down. After several years of flitting from bar to bar, private party to private party, dazzling the public and educating Cincinnati about the art of cocktails, Wellmann has committed to a serious relationship with one the most successful bars in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.

The ownership at the Neon’s Unplugged has acquired Japp’s, located at 12th and Main streets in Over-the-Rhine.  Once a former 19th century wig store, then turned restaurant in the mid-90’s, the storefront has sat vacant for many years. Together with Michael Redmond, John Back, and the other partners at Neon’s, Wellmann hopes to restore the space into a new venue where patrons will be able to enjoy affordable, authentic craft cocktails.

The 1,700 square-foot bar and lounge area has “solid bones,” according to owner and head designer John Back. “The space is going to stay formal yet accessible,” he explained. “The basement has a ton of memorabilia, both from the original hair store and stuff from Main Street’s heyday in the 90’s.”

According to ownership, the space needs much work, especially replacing or refinishing the floor, but the end result will be something resembling a classic 19th century cafe, evoking the pre-Prohibition old saloon spaces without attempting to be a period place (no handlebar moustaches here). Like the old time saloons, Japp’s will also sell speciality locally made desserts as well as tobacco products, though the space will not have an in-house kitchen.

“We have a lot of classic things from the turn of the century, but we’re still in the modern era,” Wellmann explained to UrbanCincy. “We want to pay homage to both. It will be the same with the cocktails – acknowledging the past, but with a new twist.”

According to Wellmann, the cocktails will stick to classics ranging from the 1700s to 1950s. She also plans on staying away from infused liquor. The hope is to make as many house-made cocktail mixers as possible – for example, in-house grenadine and fresh squeezed juices.

When it came to the location and the idea of restoring another neighborhood icon, it just seemed to make sense to Wellmann, Redmond and Back.

“Think about what is happening here in Over-the-Rhine, right now. This revitalization is the result of well thought out change, and it’s amazing to be included. Look out the front door [of Japp’s], and there’s 12th Street, like a grand avenue ahead of you,” said Redmond. “You look out over 12th Street and end at Japp’s. It’s a pretty awesome location!”

The ownership group hopes that having two bars in close proximity will open up more opportunities to improve other parts of the neighborhood – including parking, wayfinding, and lighting. They say this will make them become even bigger advocates for the community and 12th Street district.

Goetz Alley in the back of the new bar provides a potential for outdoor space, and a visual connection to Neon’s, the sister bar. Many of the guiding principles that makes Neon’s a popular neighborhood spot will carry over to Japp’s.

“When we first opened Neon’s, early on we decided that we were always going to offer value proposition,” said Back. “The price of a Jack & Coke at Japp’s will be the same price as a Jack & Coke at Neon’s.”

Wellmann was quick and emphatic to point out that the main cocktail list will all be priced under $10.  She says that patrons will have the option to buy a $10 to $12 drink, but that it will be the exception, not the norm.  The group is also excited to expand the community’s palate without emptying their wallet’s by bringing in a wider variety of little-known beers and alcohols.

Hours of operation have yet to be set, but the ownership team is offering an optimistic timely for a soft opening in early summer 2011.  They also said that the establishment’s operations will run in conjunction with Neon’s.

“Ultimately, the Japp’s experience will be understated, accessible elegance,” says Molly. “There will be the same neighborhood feel that everyone loves at Neon’s, but it won’t be a place where you get hammered drunk. You bring your out of town friends to show off the neighborhood, to display one of Cincinnati’s best sides.”

Stay up-to-date by following Japp’s on Twitter @Japps1879.