Burnt-out garages are found in every part of the city, but this charred heap has a date with destiny: Detroit, meet Alley Wine, the aspiring wine bar in an alley. Turns out, wine bars don't typically go in alleyways, even in prosperous Midtown. That's what the City of Detroit thought, at least initially. It took David Knapp and Lynne Savino twenty months (and the backing of some Midtown higher-ups) to persuade the city that, while a good space to keep broken bottles and unwanted cats, the alley between Alexandrine and Selden could effectively be used as an access point for a bar.
Despite the zoning victory, the garage has seen exclusively better days. A fire ate up the roof sometime in the past, leaving he structure leaning in a few directions. One of the garage's four bays is missing its alley-facing wall entirely, and what brick remains doesn't look like something you'd want to stand in, or under. Now that Knapp and Savino have convinced the city that Alley Wine deserves to exist, they now must coax this structure into something even greater than its original purpose: housing wine, food, music, and merriment. Obviously, their work has just begun.
Even so, future bar-goers will be sipping wine and munching cheeses within the confines of these same old bricks. We talked to David Knapp, who explained that the alley-facing facade will be repaired using bricks salvaged from an unnecessary interior wall dividing the garage in half. Large glass doors will take the place of the garage bays, bringing light and fresh air in the summer. Most importantly, a 150-square-foot addition will be added to the rear of the garage, which should have access to the otherwise vacant lot on Alexandrine. That yard might one day host Croquet and Bocce ball, the kind of outdoor games best played while drinking wine
Knapp tells us that a liquor license, financing, tax credits, and basic building permits are all approvals yet to be won. Alley Wine could open as soon as this fall if everything goes smoothly. But it might not, and that's to be expected. Alley Wine is doing something different, imaginative, and unprecedented; clearing a path for other businesses to do the same. If the Midtown of the future is full of great little shops in unlikely places, just remember which one put in the effort and got it done first.