WILMINGTON — An acre of land, once adorned with lush foliage for garden lovers, will find new life this fall.
Though the former Transplanted Garden space won’t be resurrected as a plant retail store, it will become a secret garden hideaway as Tap Yard Wilmington.
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“We want it to feel like you’re being transported into a lush tropical garden,” owner Zack Medford said, “vines growing on trellises and gazebos.”
Tap Yard will be a neighborhood bar and beer garden near the Cargo District, at 502 S. 16th St. It will serve only North Carolina beers on tap and be fully ABC permitted, with seasonal signature craft cocktails, including a Manhattan served with a Southern touch.
“We make our own Cheerwine syrup,” Medford said, highlighting the cherry-flavored soda created in Salisbury, North Carolina.
Bars will be located both indoors and outdoors, one focused on bourbon. Plus, there will be wine, seltzers and a vast menu to appeal to nondrinkers, such as zero-proof spirits for cocktails and nonalcoholic beers. Kombucha will be added to the lineup eventually.
Currently, Medford owns two downtown establishments, including Coglin’s and The Lookout on Front Street. While both nightclubs draw in younger crowds looking to dance the night away, Tap Yard will have a different vibe. It will be dog-friendly, first and foremost, and welcome families. Medford surmises peak hours will be 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and by nightfall a more mature clientele will roll in.
“I got my start in the nightclub and neighborhood bar game,” Medford said. “It’s such a different world now — a much more relaxed atmosphere.”
The Wilmington concept is being modeled after the flagship Tap Yard Raleigh, which had its grand opening a few weeks ago. Medford operated clubs in the Triangle for two decades before moving to the Port City.
“I’m 40 years old, I’ve got three kids of my own, I have two dogs,” Medford said. “What really excites me about Tap Yard is it’s more in tune with my lifestyle. I want to go out and sit down at two o’clock in the sunshine, have some suds with my buds, and then go home. So it’s exciting to be able to kind of bring that vision alive.”
The Raleigh location has taken off already in its infancy. Most days, Medford noted, there are at least 20 dogs in the bar. That could be because of a specialty brew geared toward the quadrupeds: Mason’s Good Dog Beer.
“It’s beer brewed specifically with your dog’s nutritional needs in mind,” Medford said. “It’s made out of low-sodium chicken broth, natural peanut butter and no-sugar-added applesauce.”
Medford and his wife began toying with the recipe months ago to serve at the Raleigh beer garden. Named after their Siberian Husky — “who takes almost as much energy as running a bar does,” Medford joked — the dog sipper is served in Mason jars for $6 a pop. Batches are made weekly 5 gallons at a time and the bar owners are already getting shipping requests from customers.
“Distribution may be in the future,” Medford said.
Right now full attention is focused on getting the Wilmington bar open.
It will feature games dispersed throughout the space, including pinball, Golden Tee, Duck Hunter, foosball, corn hole, giant Jenga and even a claw machine. Special events and live music will be featured often, and food trucks will be frequenting the location, also outfitted with parking.
“Last weekend, we had free face painting for families for about four hours in Raleigh and the line was incredible,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many cocktail cherries I have bought for Shirley Temples.”
The Wilmington lot is housed with a 3,000-square-foot building, as well as multiple offshoot areas, such as a porch and greenhouse that will become nooks for gatherers.
“The outside really takes the stage,” Medford said. “It just feels magical.”
He has been working with Hipp Architecture and Development and New Hanover Designs to engineer the renovations. The space will be versatile, ably suiting those looking for an afternoon drink, but also with the ability to host business meetings or special events, such as engagement, birthday and retirement parties.
“We want to modernize the building and make it comfortable,” Medford said, noting the 1970s structure has good bones. “What first drew me to it is the way the beams on the roof are. It’s almost built like a barn but in a modern way — such a cool rustic building. It feels very homey.”
But the focus in design will be making the indoor-outdoor effortless in flow. With all the foliage he plans on adding, Medford will partner with a landscaper to install and maintain plants, rotating them seasonally.
“Wilmington has gorgeous weather, a lot of sunshine, perfect breezes,” he said. “So we really want to take advantage of that.”
Aside from the draw of the lot itself, located at the corner of Church Street, the nearby Cargo District had major appeal to the entrepreneur. He and his family frequently visit the many shops, bars and dining establishments with friends and family.
“Mess Hall was my first introduction over there,” he said. “It’s been an exciting time to watch Wilmington grow with such unique energy and small businesses in the Cargo District, especially compared to big-box stores and franchises opening in other areas. The vibe is a perfect fit for us.”
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