Customers at Otto’s Bayside Wine & Spirits soon will be able to do more than just buy liquor at the store.
Otto’s, located near the corner of Brown Deer and Port Washington roads, is wrapping up work on transforming its basement into a tasting room that will host wine classes and other functions. The room should open by March 1.
The new space is a result of an unfortunate turn of events. Like many homes and businesses in the North Shore, Otto's had extensive damage in its basement following the July flooding. Prior to the flooding, though, the store's owners already had talked about putting a tasting room in the basement or upstairs, said Anthony Crowder, store manager.
Once the flood waters hit, it was decided to put the tasting room downstairs since the basement had to be extensively renovated anyhow.
Getting permission to have a tasting room at the liquor store, however, didn't come without restrictions. Crowder said the Bayside Village Board only issued a temporary license to see how the venture would turn out.
“The Village of Bayside never dealt with something like this, so they did it temporarily so they have the option to review it when it comes up for review again,” said Crowder. “There are certain reasons why they won’t renew a license, like underage drinking or something. They’re just covering their bases because they, along with ourselves, have never done anything like this before.”
The temporary license, which was issued last month, runs through June 30, and the board could decide to put more restrictions on it.
“We might have to lower the number of people we can have in the tasting room at one time or something like that,” Crowder said. “They won’t pull the license, just review it and change what it entails. We also wanted the license to be on a temporary basis because it’s something new to us, too. Then, if for some reason it doesn’t work out, we’re not stuck.”
But Crowder has big plans to ensure the tasting room is a success.
Although customers can sample test wine, liquor and beer, he says the Bayside area has a higher-end wine focused clientele. Thus, there’s a lot more focus on wine in the store. The new space, which can accommodate up to 49 people, will hold paid classes that can help local wine connoisseurs learn a few tricks of the trade.
“I think it’ll benefit wine drinkers because it’ll further educate them,” said Crowder. “We’ll be inviting in wine makers as well. Wine is fun to drink, but also fun to learn about by seeing who it comes from and what goes into it. If you just crack a bottle of wine, you really don’t know the history.”
There will be two classes a month, and registration will be required. Each class also will have a small fee because there is a possibility that some people may want to do wine sampling for reasons other than the educational experience.