News first broke that Williams & Graham would plant a 1920s-themed bar in a bookstore at the edge of Highland back in April, and Todd Colehour, former executive at Kona Grill, and Sean Kenyon, Squeaky Bean and Euclid Hall barman and Westword's "Ask the Bartender" contributor, had planned to start slinging drinks in June of this year. Construction and liquor license delays, however, foiled those plans. "It's been a long road, and we've made some mistakes along the way," says Kenyon. "But finally, here we are."
After a lot of hard work -- and construction that will continue until the doors open -- the partners are will open Williams & Graham tomorrow night. "There are still some finishes that need to be done, and we've got about 1,000 books coming in in the next day and a half, but we're opening. I would bartend on a sawhorse if I had to," says Kenyon.
Luckily, he won't have to. The bar -- which is accessed via a bookshelf in a real working bookstore that sells cocktail books, the works of famous drunken authors (think Hemingway) and bar tools -- is fully stocked.
"They're simple, elegant cocktails that are very accessible," notes Kenyon, adding that the drink menu features vignettes, anecdotes and profiles of spirits written by prolific bartenders from around the country. Paul Pacult, for instance, penned a few words about scotch. Steve Olsen wrote about mezcal. And his team -- which includes Josh Smith from TAG RAW BAR, Jason Patz who caught Kenyon's eye at a BarSmarts class and bar manager Courtney Wilson from Steuben's -- is ready to go. "They seem like they've worked together for years," he says. And the drinks, he says, pair to a small menu of four appetizers, four entrees and four desserts.
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Kenyon says that he and Colehour want Williams & Graham to be a neighborhood gathering place. "I don't want this to be a 1920s theme park; it's a 1920s-themed bar," Kenyon notes. "We don't want it to be stuffy, and everything's fresh behind the bar. But you could come in for a Utica Club or a Gennessee Cream Ale or sherry or spirits on the rocks or a cocktail. It's a real neighborhood bar."
Williams & Graham opens to the public tomorrow night at 8 p.m.