Downtown Asheville's monastic contingent is about to get a little boozier. On the third floor of 92 Patton Ave., nuns will mount the Thirsty Monk, and they will bring the hard stuff.
Owner Barry Bialik plans to call the new liquor bar “Nuns on Top,” and it will fill out the three-story building where Thirsty Monk opened in 2008 on the bottom floor. After just a few months, the 14 Belgian-style beers on tap and the 140 bottled selections proved popular enough for Bialik to expand to the second floor, where Thirsty Monk serves American craft brews and cask ales.
Now, Bialik is looking up again.
Nuns on Top will retain the Monk's emphasis on high-end products, and the branding will be similar, but it will offer an experience of its own making. Despite its proximity, Nuns on Top will inhabit a separate space from the Thirsty Monk, with its own entrance on Patton Avenue. Bialik has gussied up the third floor, which has served as his offices for the past several years, into an unconventional watering hole. It will offer bargoers an open floor plan with a large patio overlooking Commerce Street.
“It's connected but not as connected,” Bialik says. “It's almost like an in-town speakeasy.”
Like the Thirsty Monk, Nuns on Top will boast a large number of specialty libations. While Bialik and his team are still working out the details, he estimates that between 100 and 110 liquors will be available, and that about 30 of those will be whiskey. Flights of liquor will be on the menu, and Bialik hopes the model will prompt customers to experiment.
“It's not going to be a Slippery Nipple kind of bar,” he says. “We're going to do things like deconstructed gin and tonics, where you can get a tonic and then have three different types of gin with it to taste the differences.”
Nuns will also produce many of its own mixers, and Bialik and his team are in the process of developing tonics, mixes and sodas.
Bialik says the requisite licenses are secured and managers have been hired, and he plans to open the bar before the end of the year.
“I would say a month, but I've probably been saying a month for the past six months,” he says.
Bialik adds that he also plans to continue to grow his brewery, which opened last year at the Monk's south Asheville location. — Emily Patrick