A cocktail lounge coming soon to Niles, Mich., aims to combine the atmosphere of high-class Vegas bars with the community-driven values of a small town.
The Brass Eye, created by Niles native Bryan Williams, plans to open in January at 205 N. Second St. (formerly the Stein & Vine wine bar).
“It’s Vegas without the pretentiousness,” Williams said. “I want to celebrate the history of cocktails.”
The Brass Eye will pay tribute to the history of Hollywood, too. The drink menu will feature classic cocktails alongside Hollywood-motivated inventions like the Red Wedding for fans of the HBO show “Game of Thrones,” a James Bond-style vesper martini (shaken, not stirred) or the I’m Your Huckleberry inspired by the 1993 film “Tombstone.” There will also be a sizable selection of beer, Williams said.
The community values come into play with the donations Williams plans to make to local nonprofits.
When customers order certain drinks, they’ll get a token which they can use to show support of three or four featured organizations. The Brass Eye then donates a portion of profits from that sale to the organization. Williams said he took a note on the concept from South Bend Brew Werks.
But first, Williams is asking for help from the community to cover start-up costs. The Brass Eye’s crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.com has raised just over $900 toward its $10,000 goal, so far.
“It gives people a little ownership,” Williams said. “They’re helping a local business that will continue to give back to the community.”
One of the main incentives for donations (as is customary for crowdfunding campaigns) is credit at the bar — for anywhere from $5 to $1,000. Other perks include swag like T-shirts and cocktail classes, a cocktail named after the donor and displaying the donor’s name on a plaque for the “Founders Wall.” For the highest level of donation, $5,000, Williams is offering to bring the donor along on his next trip to Las Vegas for a trade show.
Behind the bar, Williams plans on using top-shelf liquors and fresh, local ingredients when available. The I’m Your Huckleberry, for instance, will feature Michigan-made huckleberry jam.
The city of Niles showed a vote of confidence in Williams’ business plan last month, when it approved a $25,000 loan for a down payment on the storefront.
“Niles is really receptive to small business right now. With the Niles Main Street Association’s ‘downtown revolution,’ most downtown storefronts are open right now,” Williams said. “I’m really excited about Niles right now.”
Williams hopes to open The Brass Eye in time for for the Hunter Ice Festival weekend, Jan. 16 to 18.
And how did Williams land on the name “The Brass Eye” for his community cocktail lounge?
According to Williams, Benjamin Franklin came up with more than 200 euphemisms for being drunk, and “to have a brass eye” was one of them.