The Velvet Cellar opens its doors this week in the historic Saddlery building at 1500 Wynkoop in downtown Denver. The wine bar concept looks to breathe fresh life into the downtown dining scene. Owners Reilly Chunn and Chris Dominey are executing a shared vision for this concept — more than five years in the making — based on their combined passion for creating experiences centered around food and wine.
Located on the ground floor of the historic Saddlery building — one of the last grand old warehouse buildings in LoDo – The Velvet Cellar takes over a space that had been dormant for two years, previously home to the Squeaky Bean and then Chow Morso. Now, the culinary story of this location continues but with a newly redesigned interior and setting intended to be sophisticated yet approachable.
“We’re creating something special for those living, working, or visiting downtown,” said Chunn. “We want this newly transformed space to draw people in and make them feel at ease, so they can sit back, sip their drink of choice and tuck into an amazing meal.”
Glenn Massarotti of Turn Key General Contractors Inc. came on board to help make the vision a reality with function in mind. While historic buildings can be a challenge to renovate with sloping floors, odd electrical finds, and the occasional surprise in the walls, Massarotti says the results are always worth the effort.
“The Saddlery building is a Denver staple and it’s been our honor to participate in this project. We kept many historic elements of the building — the timber columns, brick walls, and wood ceilings — and combined those with new elements to create a fun and funky space that perfectly fits the neighborhood,” said Massarotti. “My favorite new elements are the back bar and the wine storage closets. It was a fun challenge to make them fit within the confines of the existing building structure.”
Brayton Interiors achieved a balanced design that feels both historic and current adding elements like wall texturing, burnished brass lighting, a black high-sheen bar front and trim, and a mix of white and ebonized oak furniture – all providing polish and edge to the existing industrial space. The bar back makes a bold statement with three arches featuring matte black subway tiles, while custom velvet banquettes sit within the large window bays along 15th Street to embrace the restaurant’s namesake.
“Overall, it’s relaxed yet elevated, and will appeal to those seeking a relaxing post-work happy hour, a pre-Ball Arena cocktail, or anyone looking for a delicious meal downtown,” said Julie Brayton, president and lead designer. “We can’t wait to enjoy a glass of wine (or two…) and some incredible meals at The Velvet Cellar.”
Chunn and Dominey, also childhood friends from Alabama, have a combined 30 years of industry experience and have focused on assembling a team of professionals that complement their backgrounds.
The menu will include about 10 seasonal and scratch-made dishes, from lighter small plates and salads to more filling dinner-sized courses and desserts, focusing on locally sourced ingredients and a wine-forward beverage program.
“We’re working with local producers, vineyard-owned wineries and premier brands that align with our vision,” said Dominey. “Everything is created with intent and care, keeping the guest experience top of mind.”
Chef Jon Simoneau and his team have developed a menu featuring a variety of regional and international cuisines to complement and synergize with the diversity of wine styles and origins offered. He’s planning to source mainly from Colorado farmers and ranchers while also featuring house-made items like cured meats, cheeses, bread, desserts and more.
One dish, the Shrimp & Grits (heirloom red corn grits, aged white cheddar, smoked pork belly, shrimp-infused pepper gravy) is paired with Clyde May’s Blackberry Sour (whiskey, lemon juice, egg white, blackberry syrup) to create a combination that pays homage to the owners’ southern roots. The cocktail uses Clyde May’s Alabama-style whiskey and blackberry, the state fruit.
The wine program, supported by a full cocktail bar and a selection of beers on tap, will boast between 300-400 different labels. Dominey, with a passion for all things wine, is working toward his Level 4 Diploma in Wines from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) and loves discovering unique winemakers with wines worth sharing. Guests of The Velvet Cellar can have full trust and confidence that their sommelier will meet them wherever they are, ultimately giving power to the guests to select the appropriate wine or beverage to enhance their dining experience.
“Wine is something that brings a whole meal together. It’s an encapsulated moment of time that only exists when the bottle is opened,” said Dominey. “Wine also tells a story, unique to each person, and makes any experience fuller.”
The Velvet Cellar is accepting reservations beginning December 12. For more information visit www.TheVelvetCellar.com.