GRAND RAPIDS — GRNoir Wine and Jazz owners Shatawn and Nadia Brigham welcomed the first dine-in customers to their new Grand Rapids club Monday after being delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The husband-and-wife team started the design process for the business in April 2019, and opened for delivery and curbside services out of their leased space at 35 S. Division Ave. in December. Shatawn Brigham is one of two Black sommeliers in Grand Rapids, according to a news release, and the company also offered virtual wine tastings in recent months.
“We knew there would be a retail and online aspect because of our wine club, but we didn’t imagine putting our whole wine list online,” Nadia Brigham said in an interview today. “That was a pivot for us that we hadn’t envisioned from the start, but we feel blessed and thankful that the community sees us and knows we are offering these services.”
As of today, Michigan bars and restaurants are under 25 percent capacity restrictions to help limit the spread of COVID-19 cases. To help maintain the limited number of dine-in guests, GRNoir customers must reserve a time to visit, and reservation times are capped at 75 minutes.
“Our business model is really closely aligned with having a smaller group of people in the space anyway,” Brigham said. “As long as we can stay consistent and folks come out and support, then we will be able to ride this out until we are allowed to serve people at a greater capacity.”
The modern design of the intimate space features a piano and drum set in the corner and mix of seating areas from a bar, a long communal table, and smaller tables throughout the bar with velvet-cushioned seats. A wine dispenser lines the back wall of the bar with 40 different bottles ready to pour, which can also be switched out to accommodate GRNoir’s wine selection that includes over 100 labels.
“Downtown nightlife in Grand Rapids has grown and is still growing, so we wanted to create something new and different,” said Shatawn Brigham. “We have plenty of traditional bars, so we wanted to add a little bit of a different flair with ours and of course have live jazz and focus heavily on wine.”
The Brighams hope to have local artists performing at GRNoir, but also plan for the space to serve as a midpoint for performing musicians traveling between Chicago and Detroit.
“Jazz is intimate,” Nadia Brigham said. “We know our space is not large, but that’s intentional because we want to create that kind of intimacy for folks to be engaged in jazz.”
Although GRNoir does not have a full kitchen, it still offers small plates ranging from chicken and waffles to seafood dishes and desserts that can be paired with various wines.
“We are here to celebrate our culture, the culture of wine, the culture of jazz, and while we are unapologetically who we are, this is a place for the whole community,” Nadia Brigham said. “We want people to come and find themselves here whether through jazz or through wine. If someone is a wine novice, that’s fine too. What we’re trying to do is make jazz and wine much more accessible to people.”
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