Friday, April 25, 2008

Farewell Vino's Wine and Cheese

It wasn't that long ago the crew at Pacific Brew News were elated with our new favorite local bar, and it was a wine bar nonetheless! Vino's opened in 2006 in Roseville, California, as a purveyor of fine wines and great cheese - that was how they billed themselves. Along with that, however, was the owner's passion for beer, more specifically his passion for Bear Republic beer. He had been on a wine tour some months before opening his place and stopped in at the Healdsburg brewery, ever since he knew he needed to have it on tap in the place he was about to open. He had only six taps, but when they were first opened each of those taps were pouring stand out beer, with nary a Bud or Corona to be seen (they sold these in bottles, but they were expensive and not promoted whatsoever).

Sean Hunter was the original owner and together with his business partner and friend, Toby, they created an environment that worked for everyone. Toby and Sean had good chemistry and, more importantly, great energy. They weren't 'the experts', but they knew enough to sell their product and were great at paying attention when someone had something to say.

Sadly, Sean's marriage was ending. It wasn't really a secret, but not really something people liked to talk about either. The divorce wasn't pretty and you could see it taking its toll on Sean. Eventually, he lost the bar to his ex-wife and was forced to walk away from a place that he built. It was a sad and bitter day. Not long after Toby too had had enough and took his exit, things were going downhill fast.

I don't know what lessons there are in everything life deals us, but this closure sort of hits home for me. Sean had a great business plan, he operated it smoothly and created great buzz - it was the region's new great bar where importers and brewers would come to show off their product and mingle with their fans. But what a fragile thing that is, right? It has to be less than a year ago that Sean left, and shortly there after it was like watching a train wreck. It was bad enough that we stopped going, we had to. The service was horrible - one of my last trips in I walked into a mostly empty bar, took my seat and waited for about seven minutes without even a nod or a word that I'd be taken care of soon. So, without refreshment, I left. What's worse, the person behind the bar was none other than the new owner.

About six weeks ago they listed the business for sale online, at a pretty ungodly price given where they had taken the place. Tonight, the walls are bare, the lights are off and what was once a place of great beer and cheer is no more. I don't believe they sold, there were no emails or farewells given, but I don't know anyone who will be surprised it's closed - only sad at the story it is. Additionally, we'll need to find ourselves a new bar in Roseville and so far nobody seems to be stepping up to the plate in that regard.

Sean, Toby, wherever you guys are please know that we at Pacific Brew News truly loved the place you built. Speaking for myself, I'm truly sad to see it's gone.