Our open date has been a moving target for quite a few weeks. At first we were hoping late January, then early February. Most recently I told people it would be between late February or early March. Now its early-mid March!
So what is taking so long…
First, this is my first adventure into opening a retail store and bar! Exciting! Scary! Fun! I’m learning a lot as I go! As I travel in the darkness the road before me is revealed only in small pieces. The pieces are all coming together, but I don’t have the experience to see too far ahead to know what may lurk further down the road that could surprise me.
The biggest hold up has been getting the permits to up-fit the retail space. We are adding a 2nd bathroom and doing plumbing/electricity work for the bar area. Doesn’t sound like much, but everything has to be up to spec. My GC and Architect were diligent and thorough in trying to make sure we went through the approval process just once! We met on multiple occasions with the engineer, the plumber, the electrician, the refrigeration guys and talked about what the county would expect, what would be required etc…
We then submitted the plans to the Zoning Dept. about 2 weeks ago and they came back with a list of about 16 questions and/or things we have to do to be compliant.
As part of this process they declared my store a “restaurant.” I called up the Health Dept. and spoke to a very helpful fellow there. I explained to him I would only be serving beer, mead and ciders – no food. He kindly asked, “Will you be serving those beers in glasses?”
“Yes” I replied.
“Will you have a glass washing machine to wash those glasses?” was his next question.
“Then you are a restaurant!”
And since I am a restaurant there is another application I had to fill out to apply for my permit and a worksheet about my hot water heater that also had to be filled out.
The challenge with all of this – since I’m doing this all for first time – is there isn’t a single checklist of things I must do to get open. There are requirements from the Federal Government, the State, the County, and the Town of Matthews – then there are building inspections, fire marshal inspections, plus rules with the Labor Dept, rules from the ABC, rules from the Health Dept. etc..
Some resources have been helpful, but there isn’t a single place anyone can go that puts it all in one place for you. I’ve been doing research for many months about what will be required to open – talked to business owners, bar owners, bartenders, small business consultants, town clerks, attorneys and more – but occasionally things still catch me off guard. I’m learning as I go here and its been a fun process, but we can’t wait to be open!
And my store concept, while not brand new, is still quite unique in Charlotte. There are only a very small handful of stores in the county that offer retail sales and bar sales, but no food. We’re a new breed here in town, so most people I talk to aren’t exactly sure what will be required.
The good news is that I discovered I can get my ABC permit rather quickly once the up-fitting is completed. Then I can start stocking the shelves! Expect a fantastic selection of North Carolina craft beers and Belgian Ales! We’ll have an excellent selection of craft beers from around the country and the world too!