Being the oldest business in Cincinnati, Bromwell’s should be a familiar name to most locals – after all, it’s been around since 1819. But a recent addition could delight even old-school residents.
Bromwell’s impressive retail space on Fourth Street in Downtown serves as a grand showroom for its primary offerings of fireplaces and accessories. The 10,000-square-foot, two-story space features gas fireplaces, wood stoves, mantels and related products experienced in room-sized displays complete with furniture and decor.
The relatively new Bromwell’s Härth Lounge, located next door, serves as an extension of that showroom and an avenue to bring the Bromwell’s brand to life even more. Härth and Bromwell’s owner Jeffrey McClorey likens the co-branding of the two businesses to a concept he’s seen in other cities, like the Ralph Lauren store on Michigan Avenue in Chicago that boasts the adjacent RL Restaurant.
“The last time I was up there with a friend, we were looking around in the showroom and struck it up with the sales person,” McClorey tells CityBeat of exploring RL Restaurant. “He invited us to go down this secret corridor and they pushed open a bookcase, and all [of a] sudden, we ended up in the bar of the restaurant side. Those things were inspirational to me with this co-branding of the space and whatnot.”
Like many businesses in 2020, Härth closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whereas many bars and restaurants reopened their doors as quickly as possible, McClorey and his management team instead took some time to reinvent the business, aiming to serve the growing number of Downtown residents, and complement the businesses moving in nearby.
With a plan to re-open in July, McClorey says Härth will expand its hours, bringing the former night club into the light of day. The business will serve coffee and light bites into the afternoon, while the cocktail bar will open only on weekend nights for now.
“We’re going to go into it with more of a conservative approach as far as the bar side is concerned, but the coffee thing, we’re very committed to,” McClorey tells CityBeat.
In addition to espresso drinks, fans of pour-over coffee will enjoy the fruits of the new state-of-the-art Poursteady pour-over system – the only one of its kind in Cincinnati, according to McClorey. The custom-programmable machine can craft up to five separate servings at a time, with the single water nozzle darting back-and-forth from one basket of grounds to the next, delivering the prescribed quantity and temperature of water until all the pots are filled.
Again inspired by experiences in other cities, McClorey’s goal is to keep the coffee bar open into the evening hours as the demand for it grows.
“There’s really nice coffee programs in the evening for people who don’t consume alcohol,” McClorey says of coffee options he’s observed elsewhere. “It’s just a nice thing for all of us that like to drink coffee all day long and evening.”
The new coffee program will feature custom roasts from La Terza in Lockland. Food options at Härth will be limited to pastries, small bites and packaged snacks, including some curated offerings such as chocolates from San Francisco and popcorn and peanut brands McClorey has enjoyed over the years.
At the main bar, patrons can order Manhattans, martinis and margaritas. The cocktail menu will remain focused on the classics — 14 of them — and mocktails. Wine and craft beer options also will be available. A small refrigerator on one end of the bar displays a selection of non-alcoholic options, such as Ale-8-One, bottled Mexican Coke and orange Jarritos.
“I want to make that part of it feel like the most immaculately luxurious Rabbit Hash [Kentucky community and store] feel,” Härth’s general manager Jared Dreyer tells Citybeat. “But if you want a slammin’ old school cocktail, we can do that too.”
The lounge’s signature upscale-comfortable vibe won’t change, but the interior design and decor are getting an upgrade. Since the Lounge is an extension of Bromwell’s brand and showroom, McClorey sees an opportunity to redesign the interior of the space to incorporate the updated offerings from the retail business. For McClorey, an empty bar space in need of updating is akin to an artist’s blank canvas.
“This is Jeff’s art. This is how he gets it out,” Dreyer explains. “Before the pandemic, I said ‘We should put a coffee bar in here and repaint.’ Then we closed, and I came back a few months later. I just meant get a coffee machine, man!”
“I got carried away,” McClorey responds. “But hey, you get locked in your room too long…”
Referring to the Lounge’s extensive redesign efforts, McClorey says, “It’s a fun hobby for me, but now it’s ready to share with the world.”
The new space is much darker now than when it was primarily a nightclub. Black charred wood made by a Japanese process called shou sugi ban lines much of the walls, and the unique arches that stretch from wall to ceiling are painted red, making the fireplace theme more apparent.
To further bolster the Bromwell’s brand, three gas fireplaces are incorporated into the new design, replacing the single hearth found in the previous incarnation. These units vent to the outside, allowing them to be much larger than before and distinguishing separate areas of the space.
The biggest change is the removal of the stage. The grand piano remains near the front, but just behind the street-facing storefront windows, patrons can now sit in cafe-style wood chairs and tables. The window wall can open to the outside for that sidewalk cafe feel. Opposite the front windows, there’s a two-sided fireplace that provides some separation from the main bar space.
Moving past that fireplace, the main area will feel familiar enough to the former space, with the large bar serving as the anchor. Additional tables and seating are placed with ample spacing between, and new wood flooring provides a clean, fresh appeal. The coffee bar keeps a small footprint in the rear of the space. Paper murals from France, giant vintage bottles and other curiosities throughout the area tie together the themes of fire, wood and drink.
“You can keep tinkering and getting it perfect, but in my opinion it looks pretty good and I’m very proud of it.” McClorey says. “It’s an extension of what we do at Bromwell’s and why we’ve been in business for 203 years.”
Bromwell’s Härth Lounge is located at 125 W. 4th St., Downtown. Info: bromwellsharthlounge.com.