Barrique Kitchen & Wine Bar, a concept operating in New York, intends to open this spring at the former Cowford Traders retail location in The Shoppes of Avondale.
Partner Greg Bartolotta, managing partner at Barrique Kitchen & Wine Bar and The Argyle Grill & Tavern in Babylon, N.Y., said construction is expected to start in early 2017.
The 5,000-square-foot restaurant, at 3563 St. Johns Ave., will seat 100 diners, a number agreed upon during the zoning process.
Décor will be reminiscent of an old world winery or wine cellar, Bartolotta said. “Reclaimed wood, brick and stucco will dominate the room in warmly lit environment,” he said.
Partner Richard A. Rapp Jr. in Ponte Vedra Beach describes it as intimate with “Old European charm,” different from wine bars that he said feature chrome and light.
While not identified by name in zoning documents, the restaurant was the topic of neighborhood objections because of parking and other concerns in the historic shopping and residential neighborhood.
“I think we got the best deal we can get,” said neighborhood resident Alicia Grant, who opposed the zoning.
With a City Council resolution adopted Nov. 22, the project — identified during the process as a kitchen and wine bar with New York connections — is taking steps toward opening.
A building-permit application and accompanying plan show only the interior demolition for 5,002 square feet in the building. Interior build-out approvals will be sought separately.
Bartolotta described Barrique Kitchen & Wine Bar as a small plate concept with an emphasis on sharing. The menu will be global, but with a Mediterranean slant.
The wine selection will consist of a majority in the $30-$40 range, with most being under $100.
Bartolotta said Barrique will be open seven days a week for lunch, dinner, late-night dining, and Saturday and Sunday brunch, along with catering.
He expects a staff of about 30 full- and part-time employees.
The main dining room will accommodate more than 50 customers. Between two private dining rooms, one will have space for 10-14 seats while another can serve up to 30.
Rapp envisions the private rooms for events such as bridal showers, small receptions, book clubs and corporate lunches. Barrique would cater the food.
Bartolotta said the main dining room will offer a comfortable setting with a combination of booths and communal tables, along with regular table seating and the wine bar area.
Rapp said while there will be more that 100 seats in the facility, only up to that many will be used by customers at any time.
He said for example that if a private room is used, the outdoor seating might not be, as long as the total does not exceed 100.
BMR Dining Group LLC, based in Ponte Vedra Beach, will own the restaurant.
Bartolotta, based in Wantagh, N.Y., is one of three authorized members of the LLC along with Rapp and Joseph Murphy, also of Ponte Vedra Beach.
The LLC was registered with the state in May.
The two Ponte Vedra Beach principals came up with the idea of bringing the concept to Jacksonville, Bartolotta said.
Neither is involved with the New York operations, he said.
Rapp, a lawyer and retired utility executive, said he and Murphy, a CFO, both semi-retired to Ponte Vedra Beach and had known each other and Bartolotta for 40 years.
“Joe and I are very much ensconced in the community here,” he said.
Rapp said he has been in the area for more than nine years and Murphy a few years less.
Having been aware of Bartolotta’s restaurants, Rapp said he and Murphy decided the concept would be a good addition to Jacksonville.
“We think it’s the perfect community for our concept,” he said, adding that Avondale is “the best setting you could find in the Jacksonville area.”
Bartolotta and Rapp declined to disclose the investment costs.
“We are very excited to become part of the Riverside-Avondale community,” Bartolotta said, although the community didn’t embrace the concept at the start.
After neighborhood objections about parking and other issues, which have been spurring historic Avondale residents and shopkeepers into action, the Barrique development will meet several conditions approved by the Jacksonville Planning Commission and council and with Grant’s consent to the site plan.
In addition to only 100 seats, the restaurant will stop kitchen service no later than midnight and the developer will provide leased parking for employees at an off-street parking lot, keeping them off of St. Johns Avenue and nearby residential streets.
BMR Dining sought a zoning exception to sell and serve alcohol and an administrative deviation to reduce the number of required number of off-street parking and loading spaces to none.
The Planning Commission approved those with conditions. Grant appealed and the council Land Use and Zoning Committee amended the list of conditions.
She said while the neighborhood can’t control where customers will park, the agreement can keep the employees’ vehicles off of the residential streets.
Grant said the larger issue is the loss of retailers in Avondale. “We are getting too many restaurants and too many bars,” she said.
Barriquekitchenandwinebar.com shows the Barrique Kitchen & Wine Bar in Babylon, N.Y., features more than 150 wines, a full bar and small-plate rustic food, artisanal cheeses, thin crust pizza, pan-pressed sandwiches, mini desserts and more.
A sample menu includes warm octopus salad, pan seared duck breast, rock shrimp mac & cheese and desserts that include carrot cake and cappuccino mousse.
In addition to bottles of wine, guests also can choose from half-bottle selections. The entire wine list is available by the glass, Bartolotta said, at a two-glass minimum.