Lizardville (25380 Miles Rd., 216-364-2337), which is next door to the original Winking Lizard in Bedford Heights, will close on December 23rd for a physical refresh and to institute a few functional tweaks. The unique “beer store and whiskey bar” concept is going on 13 years, but recent shifts in the marketplace have made owner John Lane revise his business plan.
“The Lizardville concept was predicated on a couple of things,” explains Lane. “One, it wasn’t truly food based – it was sensory based with whiskey, retail beer and retail beer to drink on premises. And, if the pandemic did anything, the Lizardvilles were the last things to come back.”
Those dramatic shifts include the rise in small local breweries, the improved beer selection at area grocers, weak happy hour business and the moribund late-night dining scene. As a result, Lizardville, which prided itself on its outsized retail beer selection, is ditching that portion of the business in favor of on-site consumption only.
“We’re getting out of the retail beer side of things and we’re going to have a set list,” says Lane. “We’re going to have a cool selection of beers that we’ve been aging over the years that you can try by the glass or bottle.”
Lane says that his cellar is stocked with cases upon cases of rare, small-batch, boutique and exceptional ales from storied producers like J.W. Lees, Thomas Hardy, Cantillon, 3 Fonteinen and others that will be on offer.
“We have some that are 10, 11 and 12 years old and when you match those with some that are a little younger you get a really cool experience,” Lane states.
Those beers will join the shop’s extensive selection of “single malt, blended, bourbon, rye, Irish, Tennessee, Canadian and misfit” whiskeys, which are available by the glass and flight. And when it reopens, Lizardville will offer ¾-ounce tastes of every single booze on the menu.
Rounding out the changes is a new full-service food menu that will flip the script on how consumers used the space, says Lane.
“You were going in there for whiskey and maybe you’d want a bit to eat, but now we’re switching that, where you’ll be coming in for the restaurant side and you’re going to add whiskey as an experience,” he says.
After ripping out the bulk of the retail beer shelving and renovating the space, Lizardville’s seating will jump from 25 to 60. The kitchen will focus on appetizers, small plates, flatbreads and weekend specials.
Look for the new Lizardville to open soon after the first of the year.
As for downtown, Lane says plans to reopen Winking Lizard at its new home in the AECOM building (1300 East 9th St.) are progressing but delayed. When it opens in February, the restaurant will boast an expanded patio that will benefit greatly from a southern exposure on St. Clair as opposed to the “wind tunnel” of East 9th.
“That patio was literally the last patio to open in the summertime and usually the first one to close in the wintertime,” Lane says of the old digs.
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