In his 9-to-5 gig at housing design firm Quinn Design, one of the things Brandon Witzel loves to do most is respectfully restore old buildings—revitalizing them without tearing them down.
"The whole goal is buying older buildings and kind of bringing them back to their former glory," he explains. For example, take a look at the firm's co-working space, Flock, which brings modern sensibilities (and speedy WiFi) to "historic bones" just off of Eat Street in Minneapolis.
Witzel's latest reclamation project finds the firm at 1129 Washington Ave. S., where after years of work, Milly's Wine Bar & Bistro will open in just a few months.
There aren't all that many wine bars in the Twin Cities, and Milly's (which Witzel owns in addition to redesigning the space) will bring in wines from around the world—Sauv Blancs from New Zealand and Chile, Rosés from France or Italy. (Expect one or two Minnesota wines at most.) Witzel says the menu will be Aster Cafe-esque: lighter bites, flatbreads, sandwiches.
"My personal stake in everything is: I want gigantic cheese boards," he laughs. "I want for you to come in and pick however many cheeses you want, however many meats, and just go to town for two or three hours, have a couple bottles of wine."
The neighborhood-y, multi-story spot will have bar-top seating and lounge chairs on the first floor; upstairs, you'll enter a cozy space with sun chairs, a fireplace, and tons of plants surrounded by windows on all sides.
The upstairs space at Milly's will double as a not-so-little free library, with "thousands" of books on display. "My garage is overflowing," Witzel says, so he's bringing the books to Milly's, where guests will be able to pick out an intriguing title, retreat behind some foliage, and read while sipping and snacking. Eventually, he wants to convert the parking lot behind the building into a landscaped back deck and patio.
If everything goes well with the city, Milly's will open in early 2023, and ideally they'll host some holiday parties to meet the neighbors as a sort-of soft opening before the end of the year.
Above all, Witzel wants the 100% LGBTQ-owned wine bar and bistro to be a casual kind of place where the bartender knows your name and there's no pressure to put on airs. He knows wine can be intimidating, which is why the menu is meant to be beginner-friendly—before listing the winery or the vintage or the name of the wine, it'll tell you what kind of wine each is, so you're not guessing whether you'll like it or not.
He hopes you'll come for a glass, stay for a bottle, and enjoy a book, some live music, or a cheese board while you're there.
"And we'll have bottomless mimosas," Witzel adds. "We're not monsters."