Between now and early next year, a score of new restaurants are slated to open on Short Vine in Corryville, something that’s unprecedented for the business strip, which has been fallow for so many years.
Bogart’s, The 86 Club, Dive Bar and a few others have been the exceptions, but there has mainly been a drought of places for college kids and other locals to hang out in this area over the past 10 to 15 years.
With the advent of U Square at the Loop in Clifton Heights and the overhaul of Over-the-Rhine taking the lead, Short Vine is the next Cincinnati neighborhood poised for a major comeback.
Crime is down and condos are going up, which makes opening new businesses along the Vine Street stretch viable. More and more University of Cincinnati students are living on campus and desire walkable, nearby food and drink options. Whereas the U Square development is filled with chain restaurants, Short Vine boasts independent businesses; the only chains on the strip are local ones like Mio’s Pizzeria and LaRosa’s, which are customized to the neighborhood.
And this year, to further help the new businesses, the Short Vine Entertainment District — Cincinnati’s seventh community entertainment district — was created. The new designation made additional, discounted liquor licenses available for prospective business owners.
Taste of Belgium will open a second bistro location on Short Vine this fall, inside Uptown Rental Properties’ brand new apartment building, Views on Vine (already 100-percent leased).
Taste of Belgium owner Jean-François Flechet considered opening his bistro at U Square, but says, “I didn’t want to be between Hwy 55 and Waffle House. I think Short Vine is better for us.” The new location will be more pub-like than their OTR location, replete with 24 Belgian beers on tap, a large outdoor patio and, of course, their affordable waffles and frites.
Sitting at his OTR location, Flechet reflects on the parallels between Short Vine and OTR.
“Five years ago, this location [OTR] had more 911 calls than anywhere in the city,” he says. “It went through a really bad time and I think Short Vine is pretty much the same. They let it drop to the bottom and, little by little, now it’s being rebuilt. People are investing so much on Short Vine right now that I think it’s going to almost to be like the next OTR in terms of economic development.”
Ladder 19 is another restaurant opening before the end of the year. It will open in November or December in the old Zino’s Firehouse pizzeria spot, which is inside an actual firehouse. Owners Lori and John Levy also run Uncle Woody’s Pub in Clifton Heights and want to make Ladder a neighborhood “home away from home” joint.
“We had been looking for another bar since we took over Woody’s five years ago,” Lori says. “We looked in all parts of town but realized it is the students that make our bar and at that point committed to staying in Clifton. It was our good fortune that the firehouse became available.”
The restaurant will serve Uncle Woody’s signature Ragin’ Cajun burger, some of Zino’s classic dishes and have a fireman’s pole; they’ll also have a weekend brunch with a mimosa bar and a DJ.
Lori believes people from all over the city will gather at the new place because of Zino’s strong history. “It was one of the first date-night type restaurants in the ’80s,” she says. “All we have to do is mention Zino’s and people begin to reminisce.”
One advantage of the Short Vine entertainment district compared to the OTR dining scene is the strip is much smaller and more compact. The restaurants will be more casual and less expensive — a factor UC students can appreciate. Besides the new restaurants moving in, a new Kroger and Walgreens will be built, along with more retail spaces.
In the next couple of months, Meatball Kitchen and Hang Over Easy will open on Vine Street. This will be the first Hang Over outside of Columbus and will feature breakfast food and 40 beers on tap. Besides those two, Caribbean restaurant Caribe opened a few months ago, and more restaurants are in the process of signing leases.
But with all of these places opening simultaneously, will it result in oversaturation? Flechet thinks not.
“I think over there it’s necessary to have everybody coming at once, because right now there’s no reason for people to go to Short Vine,” he says. “If we’re the only one opening then people don’t say, ‘Well, let’s go to Taste of Belgium.’ Now people in Over-the-Rhine, they say, ‘Let’s go to Over-the-Rhine and then we’ll figure out what to eat.’ If you want Short Vine to become a successful destination, we need more people. I don’t think that’s a problem. That’s a good thing.”