New riverfront liquor license may bring whiskey bar to downtown South Bend

Drivers in downtown South Bend have likely noticed crews busy remodeling the old Wells Fargo building. Now, it turns out the renovated structure will be offering up more than office space.

A speakeasy-style whiskey bar will be opening up shop on the first floor, according to Tamara Nicholls-Smith, director of business recruitment for DTSB.

The Exchange, the proposed bar name, is one of the businesses taking advantage of the riverfront liquor licenses that started being offered last year. These special licenses cost $1000 compared to regular liquor licenses which often carry a price tag of more than $30,000.

Nicholls-Smith said that prospective business owners have been looking into the riverfront district for development because of the incentive.

“I have been speaking with many people who are in the process of finding locations for dining and entertainment establishments,” she said. “They're pulling up the map to see which ones are in the district because they would like to take advantage of monetary savings.”

The map includes a large stretch along the river, with the requirement that it be part of the redevelopment area.

A five person committee will review the riverfront liquor license for The Exchange on Friday.

“They are going to have a built in concept,” Nicholls-Smith said. “They can entertain their guests, do networking. The city is coming forth with funds for the plaza outside.”

The outdoor area on the corner of Michigan and Jefferson will be transformed into a public plaza.

“Once that plaza opens up, there Is going to be more than lunchtime concerts, outdoor concerts,” Nicholls-Smith said. “People are going to want to schedule their outdoor events there.”

With more condos opening up soon along the river, the goal is to offer up more activities for residents within the district.

“People are looking at the 521 E. Jefferson building; they are looking at the Emporium building and saying ‘can we do an interesting concept that can complement what is already there?’”

After the committee reviews this application, they will make a recommendation to the mayor's office. Then, the mayor is required to send letter of approval downstate.

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