Entering a space that is nearing completion can feel like treading on someone’s dream. In this case, the dream is about to come true. All the painstaking details — concept, design and build-out — will soon yield to logistics and operation.
Will Hollingsworth, an affable, young bartender whom you may know from his days behind the bar at Lolita, has obsessed over his new establishment for years, since 2011 to be exact. He sought the advice of veteran (now-retired) adman-turned-restaurateur, Alan Glazen. Glazen not only advised Hollingsworth but hooked him up with four investment partners.
As Hollingsworth greeted us, he introduced us to Jeffrey Eizember who, along with Jonathan Sin-Jin Satayathum, is responsible for actualizing Architect Rick Lalli’s plans. “We think this is where livestock was kept a century ago,” said Hollingsworth, respectful of the newly remodeled space. The naturally seasoned brickwork, stonewalls and dirt floors provide the ultimate backdrop for his concept. Hollingsworth, Eizember and Satayathum have reconciled the past while giving The Spotted Owl the promise of a vibrant future. We visited the space after sundown at Hollingsworth's suggestion, to experience the lighting and drink in the ambience before any libations are served.
The Gothic arched doorway introduces monastic elements that lend a palpable authenticity and spirituality that permeate the space. There are five distinct areas within the Spotted Owl that flow together in an open floor plan. Pointing out the colonial blue as the foundation of the plank wood adorning walls and bar, Hollingsworth said “I want people to think they’re in a bar from George Washington’s era,” eagerly adding, “the glassware is French — the finest glassware for commercial use.” He went on to exuberantly explain every detail. We are, after all, talking about a young hipster who appreciates a fine pair of handmade Italian loafers. Hooks, latches and hinges have all been selected to emphasize the raw, minimalist warmth The Spotted Owl exudes.
“We will have a flatscreen, but not behind the bar. It won’t be the focus — there’s something special planned for behind the bar. But we do live in Cleveland and I want this to be the place people gather and come together for unifying events like elections, sports or special screenings,” said Hollingsworth. Most of the materials that make up the interior decor have been reclaimed and repurposed. It turns out that a weatherworn wooden floor from a central Ohio barn is not only a suitable surface for the bar and tabletops, but — as Hollingsworth explained — he is excited to be using a material that has distressed naturally as opposed to a surface that is made to look distressed.
The bar will serve a list of unique, inventive cocktails including a selection of house-special Manhattans, along with a distinctive shortlist of beers and wines. “We’re not looking to have ‘the most' of anything; we want a well-executed list of libations that will become our cornerstone,” said Hollingsworth. “We have seating for 60. We’ll have someone just inside the door monitoring the flow, and taking names and contact info once we’re at capacity. I want to give everyone the same quality of service and allow them to enjoy the experience.”
The Spotted Owl is located in Tremont, at 710 Jefferson Avenue, on the lower level of the Union Gospel Press Building — a structure that was constructed over the course of 50 years beginning in 1850. Originally the location for the short-lived “Cleveland University,” it became a printing press for religious publications.