Fire & Brimstone & Drinks

5 Reasons to Get Excited About Witness Bar

Oh, hey—it opens tomorrow.

By Allecia Vermillion August 21, 2013

Those 102-year-old pews cost more to pack and ship than to purchase. Photo via Witness's Facebook page.

Last night, owner and barman Gregg Holcomb invited a small group of friends out for a highly informal trial run at Witness, the Southern church–styled bar he is about to open at 410 Broadway E. 

At one point, he paused the revelry to say a few words. Standing there, amid the 102-year-old church pew seats, the backlit frosted glass windows meant to evoke a church, and a congregation of his nearest and dearest, Holcomb didn’t exactly have a religious experience. But he did confess to getting a little teary eyed, seeing his longtime dream made real. 

Witness opens tomorrow, August 22. While it takes a lighthearted approach to the church elements, Holcomb does hope his bar is a place of legitimate hospitality, community, and personal connection. And so, five reason to get excited about eating and drinking here.

The food is even better than he hoped. Holcomb was obviously aiming to serve good food. But he’s so pleased with the Southern-styled menu that chef Jesse Elliott (formerly of Cuoco) put together that Holcomb thinks the Witness will skew more toward the food side of the bar-restaurant spectrum than he originally planned. The fried chicken in the chicken and waffle dish is brined in buttermilk and seasoned with garlic and Tabasco. But Holcomb wagers the shrimp and grits with bacon gravy will become the signature menu item. 

But, uh, there’s still a lot of booze. Holcomb was a four-year fixture at Knee High Stocking Co. and before that made drinks at Chez Gaudy, so obviously he put a great deal of care into the drinks. Happy hour will be from 4 to 6, by the way. Regular hours will be seven days a week, from 4 until close, which is the bar world’s way of saying “maybe 1am, maybe 2am, maybe earlier if every customer has packed up by midnight.” 

Cocktails are a religious experience. Each drink on the list has a church-related name. If you consider “Heaven is a Place on Earth” to be a church-related name. That particular libation is a grown-up nod to the lemon drop, made with vodka, St. Germaine, a rim of sugar infused with lemon oil, and a spritz of rose flower water to finish. There’s also the Jonathan Edwards, named for a fiery 18th-century preacher, and the Son of a Preacher Man, concocted with housemade black tea, bourbon, and lemon. 

The reclaimed wood comes from actual churches. The church pew seats came from a 102-year-old church in North Carolina (a Craiglist purchase, says Holcomb, and packing and shipping cost way more than the pews themselves). The bar is made from another set of century-old pews, these from a warehouse in Snohomish. 

You can actually spend Sunday morning here. Witness will open for brunch at 9am on Saturday and Sunday. And Holcomb is kicking it off this upcoming weekend. Facebook will surely have more details.


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