The new owners of Vintage Cocktail Lounge are slowly transforming the location into Arbor Hall while retaining most of what made this location special. Opening in 2009, the craft bar at 7907 SE Stark Street earned a loyal following for its engaging staff and wide assortment of drinks. Last July, Nathan Myers and Becca Clover purchased the business after searching for a location to open their new bar. However, when learning of Vintage’s enthusiastic fanbase, they opted to take a slow approach to the transition and remain inviting to existing customers.
Myers and Clover developed a plan for their first business before searching for a location. As a result, they had already selected the name and theme by the time the sale went through. Soon after the transfer of ownership, people became curious about the new sign on the door. The Arbor Hall name has personal significance for the couple. Myers explained that the first house they shared as a couple was on Arbor Way, and the name honors that place. “It’s where we spent the first few years of our relationship and that house, and that part of our life is very special to us,” said Myers.
Beyond the name, the owners avoided significant change during the first few months. They considered closing down and making all the modifications at one time. However, that would have meant losing beloved employees like the bartender Tony Pepe. “Any time that I’ve mentioned to anybody that we bought Vintage, the very first question that I get asked by anybody who knows the bar is, ‘is Tony still there?'” remarked Myers. “He knows everybody’s name, and people enjoy having a conversation [with Tony]. He loves talking to people about different spirits.”
Behind the scenes, the new owners have significantly updated the unseen spaces that keep the establishment running. Myers and Clover invested heavily in those upgrades, taking it down to the subfloor in some cases. This remodeling work included the kitchen and the area behind the bar. Now they have begun to change the visible regions of the bar. Recently they painted over the dark brown color pallet, replacing it with a brighter copper patina paint. Next, they plan to repaint all the front trim and replace the bar top with a monkey pod or black walnut slab. However, the bar-top replacement depends on contractor availability, pushing it back to July 2023. The bathroom became a fun project for Myers and Clover, with the walls now coved in Magic: The Gathering cards and San Francisco Giants memorabilia. The choices reflect the couple’s childhood obsessions and a lighthearted, eclectically weird style.
After the painting is complete, the next theming phase will bring more greenery into the bar. They are still determining what foliage will thrive in the environment, but soon patrons will see wall-mounted and hanging planters teaming with life. The space will have a “very heavy tree and plant influence to it,” said Myers. “We’re going to be introducing an enormous amount of plant life into the bar.”
The modifications will also include menu changes, beginning with the drinks. “It’s been the same menu of cocktails for the last few years. Next week, we’re going to be introducing the first new cocktail menu to the space since before the pandemic,” explained Myers. “We’re going to be doing a seasonal menu, so we’ll be changing the menu three to four times per year, featuring about ten cocktails.” The additional drinks will not supplant the current selection, according to Myers. “Anybody who knows what their favorite cocktail was from the last 10 or 15 years will be able to still come in and order those drinks, but they also have a new menu of drinks to order from.”
Vintage’s food menu traditionally featured Olympia Provisions hot dogs in various dressings, handmade soft pretzels from Rob’s Pretzel Palace, and other bar food. After the drink menu update, Myers explained they will replace the cooked options. “We’ll be going back to the kitchen to start focusing on redoing the food menu, and in doing that, we’ll be doing primarily vegetarian food.” The owners expect this shift in the menu will include more sharable dishes with flavors that better complement the drink offerings.
Outside seating will remain an indispensable part of Arbor Hall, with a planned reconfigured of the current covered Parking Plaza. The update should increase seating, making room for 30 people at six to eight tables outside and 33 guests inside. However, these transitions will not happen overnight. Myers and Clover anticipate completing the transformation by July of 2023, in time for their first anniversary of ownership. Until then, they will gradually introduce new elements and bring back old favorites like the pub crawl.
The new owners want Arbor Hall to remain an inviting space for Vintage fans while attracting new customers. Their number one goal is to create a friendly environment where everyone is welcome, and people enjoy spending time. Customers are encouraged to drop in often to see the changes, chat with Tony, and get accustomed to Arbor Hall’s transformation from its Vintage Cocktail Lounge roots.
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