For the past six years Eric Ho has worked at Melt in Lakewood, making his way up every rung of the industry ladder, with stops along the way as host, server, bartender, supervisor, bar manager and, ultimately, general manager. Before the end of the year, he’ll take the next big step when he becomes an owner.
When it opens later this year, L.B.M. (you’ll have to find out for yourself) will be a casual cocktail bar with a full-service kitchen and chef. The inspiration for the concept originated in Chicago, says Ho.
“Scofflaw in Chicago is my favorite bar,” he explains. “When I went three or four years ago they were doing eight-dollar cocktails. That’s what started my train of thought. If a place like that can survive in Chicago selling eight-dollar cocktails, it would kill in Cleveland.”
Ho says that his spot will utilize the same high-quality ingredients and talent of other cocktail bars, but at a price point that makes it more of an everyday type of place. His goal is to create a casual, comfortable environment that welcomes all budgets.
“A lot of it comes from the fact that I don’t have a bar that I’m comfortable sitting at,” he adds. “There are plenty of restaurants that have nice bars, but they close at 10 or 11 o’clock. And the ones that do go until 2:30 sometimes hurt the wallet a little bit. The drinks are really good but I can only go to them like once every three months or so.”
Ho’s cocktails will be unique creations that change seasonally or even more frequently.
“Every week we’ll will hit the markets for fruits and vegetables and prepare homemade sodas, syrups and tinctures, play with flavor profiles and build cocktails around that,” he notes. “[We’ll] constantly rotate our cocktail list to better utilize what is available to us.”
A full-service kitchen, run by an as-yet-unnamed chef, will prepare a menu of progressive American small plates.
Ho says that he signed a lease on the spot just two weeks ago, and he couldn’t be more thrilled with the property. Now called The Veronika, the brick structure at the corner of Madison and Lark (12301 Madison Ave.) recently was awarded Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits, a first for the City of Lakewood. Developer Frank Scalish of Scalish Construction has been fully rehabbing the property, stripping away the ‘70s-era wood shingle awning and faux rock façade that had long graced the old Corner Pub. In its place, a pair of impressive 12-foot windows.
“The storefront is going to be beautiful,” Ho says.
Adam Rosekelly of Architecture Office is designing the 1,300-square-foot interior, which will have the look and feel of a “Viking drinking hall,” notes Ho. Think chunky woods, plenty of taxidermy, masculine as heck. Behind a 13-seat bar will be a floor-to-ceiling back bar crammed full of spirits. There will be room for another 32 guests in the dining room.
Ho and partners like John Gibian already have begun the hard work of building out the bar, a labor of love for the entire crew.
“I’ve been working on this since the new year,” says Ho. “It’s all finally coming together.”