A pair of Omaha bartenders with plans for a new cocktail spot are hoping to draw more attention to the city’s burgeoning craft bar scene and bring new life to the 16th Street corridor in the process.
Bartenders Clark Ross and Colin Breen, alumni of the Boiler Room Restaurant in the Old Market and Nite Owl in the Blackstone District, hope to open the new bar this winter. It will be called Mercury.
Mercury will fill about 2,300 square feet of commercial space on the ground level of the Limelight Urban Apartment Lofts at 16th and Harney Streets.
About 1,600 square feet of commercial space remains for lease in the downtown structure that had been long vacant before a substantial renovation by Seldin Co. and Dicon Corp.
The building stands out because it was the first downtown building in recent memory to have floors built on top of an existing structure. The former two-floor building grew into a five-story structure that opened in 2014 as a $6 million mix of retail and residential space.
Increased demand for downtown urban living boosted rents and made such a project feasible.
Constructed in 1947, the concrete structure had been acquired by the City of Omaha years ago. Other developers’ proposals had fallen apart before the property was sold to the current owners.
Ted Seldin of Seldin Co. said Wednesday the Mercury is another step forward in the revitalization of 16th Street.
Ross said he looked at many Omaha neighborhoods for the bar, and ultimately decided 16th Street was where he wanted to be.
“It has some old city sensibility, and I want to see it succeed,” he said. “It’s a part of town that I want to be a part of.”
The bar will serve cocktails, wine and small plates of food on the ground level of the Limelight. Eventually, the owners plan for the bar to have an outdoor patio.
Clark said he and Breen will create a list of 25 to 30 cocktails, and certified sommelier Sara Mellor will be in charge of a 100-label wine list, along with a dozen or so wines available by the glass.
Chef Timothy Maides will provide a menu of small plates. Ross said Maides is aiming to create “playful bar food” with influences from Spain, France and Germany. Maides has cooked at the Twisted Cork Bistro and Over Easy, both in Omaha.
“The highlight is going to be cocktails and wine,” Ross said. “We want to make an exciting, varied cocktail list.”
The owners plan to keep original elements of the space, including a tile floor from the 1940s and a vault used to hold diamonds in the spot’s former life as a Brodkey’s jewelry store. Ross said the vault eventually will become the wine cellar.
The owners also have plans to install a Clinebell ice machine that makes 300-pound blocks of ice; Ross said Mercury will be the first bar in Nebraska to have one.
When the bar opens, bartenders will shave different shapes of ice to order off the large block.
“We plan to have a lot of fun with the ice,” he said.