Ottawa’s newest business is hoping to fill a void in the city’s nightlife: a relaxing, high class experience closer to home.
UnWined at Studio 111 is a hybrid business that advertises entertainment with an artistic twist in the evening and transforms into a bar serving a combination of jazz, art and custom drinks after 9 p.m. with a business casual dress code.
“The business model is designed to add a little bit of art, a little bit of culture, a little bit of fun dressy classiness to those in town who are usually leaving Ottawa and going to Lawrence or Kansas City to enjoy nightlife or a night on the town,” said the space’s owner, Gary Vago, who also owns Liberty Pawn Shop next door on North Main Street.
Vago said that he and his wife — UnWined’s principal artist Julie Vago — were tired of spending two hours of their date nights traveling to bigger cities to enjoy a later nightlife.
“When we moved to Ottawa, what we found is that we could go out to a nice restaurant, you know we have a few choices for those, but then at like 9 or 10 (p.m.) everything is pretty much closed down,” Julie said. “We didn’t really have any options in town, so we found ourselves driving to Kansas City or Lawrence.”
Its grand opening was on June 9 with a crowd of 58 of the Vagos’ friends and family. Gary is optimistic about the bar and venue’s future.
“I settled on — like any entrepreneur — finding the correct niche for your area, and I think this is it, and that’s my gamble,” Gary said.
Almost every aspect of the business is customized to the customer’s experience, from the patron’s art, the lights behind the bar and a 65 foot by 5 foot mural depicting the great wine countries of the world, which is currently an outline that patrons can help to fill in.
Even the conception of the establishment was meant to fit the tastes and preferences of Vagos’ friends across the country. Gary said that since their opening he’s also been ordering alcohol catered to whatever guests request.
“If I walked into a place and I knew my favorite thing was on the menu, that’s why I’d go back,” Gary said.
In the future, Gary hopes to expand the venue to include community outreach with local nonprofits, a dessert menu that matches the drinks, and more opportunities for live music, which the bar has already started on.
Jacquelyn Wilson, Boyd Wilson and Chris Smith — all Ottawa University students — make up the UnWined House Band. They specialize in a variation of jazz standards, including My Funny Valentine, with what they described as a Latin flare.
“I think that you’ll find that the people that appreciate fine wine also appreciate fine music, the finer things in life,” Boyd said.
Julie agreed and said that this venue is a culmination of a variety of fine arts.
“We’re marrying all of those ideas,” Julie said.