A wine-tasting bar will greet customers as soon as they walk into Imbibe, a wine, beer and liquor store that is slated to open in September in an 8,140-square-foot building at 1616 Broad St.
"We're focusing on wine," said Josh Carter, the owner of St. John's Restaurant who's one of four partners in the venture. "Our goal is to make you feel more like you're in a boutique than a liquor store."
Renovations are underway now in the building that's just south of West Main Street in Chattanooga's hip, up-and-coming Southside neighborhood. It formerly housed an advertising consulting business.
The liquor store will offer wine at a wide range of prices, from several hundred dollars a bottle for high-end Bordeaux and Napa Valley offerings stored in a cold room to bargain bottles in the $6 to $8 range.
"We are focusing really heavily on value wines," Carter said. "We want to find wines for under $15 that are strong. You don't have to spend $50 to have a great bottle of wine."
The liquor store will have tasting events daily, as he plans to bring in producers and importers once or twice a week.
Imbibe hopes to offer wines that currently aren't available at other liquor stores in Chattanooga by going beyond what's offered by area distributors.
For example, Carter spent a year working with one importer who represents 60 brands and focuses on France, Italy, Spain, Austria and Germany. Under Tennessee law, an importer has to be paired with a local distributor in order to sell wine here. Once that happens, though, any liquor store can offer the wines.
"We've done a lot of leg work over the last year, just reaching out to importers and producers," Carter said. "We want to launch a few brands ourselves."
Carter declined to name the importers and growers he's working with, so other stores don't poach the brands.
"Anything I tell my competition before I'm open, they can beat me to," he said.
Beer will take up about 75 percent of the space behind the store's 20 cooler doors, Carter said.
Imbibe still has to get a liquor license from the state, Carter said, which is supposed to occur on Aug. 25.
"We'll open, I'll say tentatively, mid-September," he said.
The other partners are Kevin Boehm, Ryan Dillard and David Yann. The three area businessmen own the building at 1616 Broad St., through a general partnership called BYD Broad. The partners have backgrounds in real estate and construction.
Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at email@example.com or www.facebook.com/tim.omarzu or twitter.com/TimOmarzu or 423-757-6651.