Chef Spike Mendelsohn and business partner Vinoda Basnayake want to be clear that they’re not opening yet another “modern speakeasy” with Morris, their upcoming Shaw cocktail bar—one of several local businesses recently announced for the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The concept is based around their first joint venture, The Sheppard, which closed in Dupont this fall when the landlord sold the building. Still you won’t find hidden entrances or no-photo policies when Morris opens in February 2016.
“There was a lot of attention paid to the gimmick, but we had incredible cocktails,” says Basnayake. “Since we had the luxury of rethinking it, we want it to be a no-gimmick bar.”
One of the ways Morris is more open from the start is a partnership with DC-based crowd funding platform EquityEats. Unlike Kickstarter, the local operation forgoes donations and seeks “investomers,” company lingo for investors who’ll ideally become regular customers, thanks to credits they receive when the business opens. For example, a starting investment in Morris’s campaign goes for $100. The same amount will be credited back to the investor on opening day, and if the business does well, he or she receives additional annual sums to be spent at the bar (projected at $20 per year, in the previous scenario). Investments are capped at $5,000.
Former Minibar/Barmini head tender David Strauss has been tapped as the bar director. Strauss originally trained at Philadelphia’s Ranstead Room under famed barman Sasha Petraske, a leader of the modern cocktail movement who passed away this year. Strauss plans for a line of all house-made juices and syrups, and line of four specialty ices. Mendelsohn will design a small menu of bar bites to pair with the drinks.