The eccentric charm of Arts District gem Velveteen Rabbit now extends to the patio. Bar co-owners Pamela and Christina Dylag spent some time removing the stage and replacing the patio with a pretty-in-pink motif, replete with whimsical umbrellas and a gorgeous new mural from artist Sloane Siobhan.
The sisters say the coronavirus pandemic brought its own set of challenges, but they remain optimistic. The state closed nonessential businesses in March, then allowed bars to reopen in May. Velveteen Rabbit reopened in June, but had to close in July when the state reclosed bars that did not serve food. At the end of September, just as the Dylags brought in an oven to start serving food, the state allowed bars to reopen.
They concentrated on improving service and the customer experience as well as revamping the patio, which took its inspiration from White Limozeen, the pink rooftop bar at the Graduate Nashville named for the 1989 song by country music legend Dolly Parton. But the artwork of Siobhan really drove the project.
“There’s a magical quality about her work and her energy,” Pamela says. “We were thinking about what can we do to create a cool space that people can enjoy with outdoor seating.”
Artist Heather Hermann created cosmic flooring with a glossy finish and refinished some of the furniture inside the bar. Nancy Foster of FoMo Design Lab created curtains that can separate the patio and make more intimate spaces.
“We initially wanted it to look like a circus — fun and playful,” Christina says. “You can escape into another realm. It’s soothing.”
The sisters also considered a new approach to service at the bar. Now a hosts seats customers, bartenders work as servers, and the bar top remains closed. “We had to completely rethink how we were doing things,” Pamela says.
The cocktail menu even got a makeover with a music theme that comes to the table in a zine format. The Dylags worked with local artists to include photography from Peter McDeal and Shahab Zargari, visual art by Daniel Ayala, Narble Art, and Lauren Ashley, and even excerpts from old Colombian radio plays translated into English by Gigi Guizado. Customers can even buy a copy of the menu for $2.
The seasonal cocktails follow the musical theme. The Runaround Sue combines pepper-infused vodka, apple juice, celery, and lemon while the Pictures of You brings together cucumber and black pepper gin, sweet basil, lavender, lemon, and humic acid. Lovers Rock, a drink meant for four to six people to share, comes poured instead of in a punch bowl with spiced rum, dark rum, golden falernum, smoked blackberry agave, lime, sparkling coconut water, wood smoke, and rock candy.
Velveteen Rabbit even has a new happy hour, dubbed magic hour, from 5 to 7 p.m. daily with $2 off all menu cocktails, $6 punch by the cup, $8 Montucky lager and shot of rye, and $6 wine and bubbles.
“People are appreciating the new space,” Pamela says. “I think people feel safe in our establishment. I think we’re approaching normalcy.”
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