I recently went to Alcove Beer Garden before Jarred Weinstein’s Jacket Art Show last month. It’s located across the street from Queen Street Barbershop in The Cargo District (also the neighbors of encore, I might add). I brought my laptop, as I usually do, with no intent to use it. My plan was to chat with the bartender and mindlessly scroll Instagram while a virtual mountain of work loomed from my backpack, hanging from a hook under the bar. But not this time. Upon entering Alcove, I instantly felt energized. At first I thought it may have been caffeine-by-proxy because of the Bespoke located in the front of the Outpost. While that may have added to the buzz, it wasn’t the only thing; Alcove has a certain je ne sais quoi that ultimately had me pulling out my computer and getting so much work done that, when a friend met me, I wasn’t ready to put it away.
But that was nearly a month ago—back when we were all supposed to wash our hands, but it wasn’t life or death. We could saddle up next to someone at the bar for a chat, be they stranger or friend, and pull out a measuring stick to ensure 6 feet of distance. It was in fact a simpler time when Corona was just everyone’s least favorite Mexican lager. Now, we’re not so certain when our next outing will be. But when we do get the green light, Wilmingtonians need to put Alcove on their list of places to hit. Its industrial decor is very chic, as rattan swings welcome folks for a twirl, breeze cement blocks tilt to mid-century vibes, and of course shipping containers square off to complete The Cargo District feel.
I got to chat with owner Billy Batten, who also owns Growlers downtown, about his new spot.
encore (e): How did Alcove come to be?
Billy Batten (BB): Alcove’s inception was simple enough. I was approached with the opportunity to open a bar concept within the Outpost at 16th and Queen streets. Being an entrepreneur at heart, already having another bar, among other self-employed interests, I was on board as soon as the envisioned concept was laid out in front of me.
The name took a little while to come up with; I wanted it to stay somewhat in unison with the area. The fact that the bar is positioned in a small corner of the Quonset Hut, and we are sandwiched between Castle and Queen streets, I chose a medieval word (Alcove). Alcove originated in the 16th century and means small recess in a room, simple enough.
e: You guys have been open for a month; how has the response been?
BB: Petty good, and we have had some really good business already so I feel fortunate. We have not done too much promoting of the bar yet, outside of some social media, because there’s still patio work that needs to be completed, as well as some other minor things. So we are holding off on a grand opening until we can get those complete.
e: Your hours are early through weekdays, closing at 8 p.m. and on weekends at 10 p.m. Is this going to change or evolve?
BB: Our hours are slightly condensed as of now because of the aforementioned things that need to be complete, but they will expand–most likely not past 10 p.m. on the weekdays and 12 a.m. on weekends, barring special circumstances.
e: I noticed a lot of local beer on draught. I love it. How did you come to that?
BB: I chose local breweries because I believe in them as businesses and enjoy the beers they are making. I also believe in supporting the local community as much as possible.
e: What about bottled/canned beer and wine? You’ve got a good selection. Are you planning to be a bottle shop as well?
BB: We are not a bottle shop; we simply are a bar that offers beer and wine. We have very limited space so it was the main factor in choosing what to carry. Of course, we wanted to give as much space for local breweries first, and then come back and fill in the open spaces with some other brands. We also made sure to choose inventory that would sell. As we grow the Outpost to the completed vision, there’s a chance I may expand the layout of Alcove, but that’s unlikely. I don’t think that bigger equals better. I really like the small vibe of Alcove and how it fits overall into the community space we are creating at Outpost.
e: Can you explain exactly what the Outpost is?
BB: The Outpost is the entire Quonset Hut. Within that space there are several small businesses, including Alcove, Bespoke Coffee Shop, Wide Open Tech, Mess Hall, and Option1S3 (who provides us with hospital-grade disinfectants, bacterial and pathogen testing capabilities). Soon a couple more will be added to the patio area as well.
e: You guys paired up with Bespoke to do a build-your-own vegan pretzel a few Saturdays ago; will we see more simpatico events like this? Got anything else planned?
BB: The vegan pretzel pop-up was a big hit; however, we aren’t going to continue with that. We actually are converting that container to a full kitchen called Mess Hall, where there will be breakfast, lunch and dinner options available, and this should be ready soon. We did have plans to put another food joint on the patio but that plan is on hold for now.
We are going to finish up fitting the last two containers on the patio as either office or retail space, which gives us a total of seven tenants in this phase of the overall Outpost project.
We will still have food trucks come as well (the more businesses, the more foot traffic for all businesses), but it takes time with them because they usually book out at least a month in advance.