by Ryan Irvine
As it turns out, an old Donatos location in Rocky River was not the best place to open a craft beer store and whiskey bar.
When the Winking Lizard first introduced its Lizardville concept in Bedford Heights in 2010, beer and whiskey geeks flocked there almost immediately. A second location followed two years later in Rocky River, but failed to attract a similar audience.
"Lizardville is new to us and we're still learning," says Winking Lizard partner John Lane. "The Lizardville in Bedford Heights opened right next to the Winking Lizard, which really helped. We put Rocky River out there on its own and people didn't understand what it was all about. Rocky River is very much considered suburbia and there are a lot of families out there."
Perhaps suburban families have better things to do than watch daddy nose his Scotch.
The Copley-Fairlawn Lizardville opened inside a Winking Lizard this past April and was a runaway success. "Copley is the model," Lane said. "It let us capitalize on peoples' curiosity like Bedford Heights did, but it also allowed us to leverage one kitchen and let our beverage specialists do what they do best — sell whiskey and beer."
The Rocky River Lizardville will close on December 31st and move into the basement of the Lakewood Winking Lizard, a space currently occupied by a six-lane bowling alley that sits unused 80 percent of the time. A smaller Winking Lizard will open in its place, with a reduced food menu, improved whiskey selection, and a craft beer program that emphasizes handles over bottles. Lane expects that both locations will be up and running by the end of January.