FARGO - A new special event concept is being planned for the spot once occupied by the VIP Restaurant in downtown Fargo’s deLendrecie’s building.
The “taste and take” wine venue will be owned by the partners who own Maxwells Restaurant & Bar in West Fargo. Maxwells is a fine dining establishment with an extensive selection of fine wines.
Ellen Wall, who is an assistant manager at Maxwells and runs her own event planning business, went before the city’s Liquor Control Board Tuesday, June 29, to request that the city create a new license that would allow for on-sale wine tasting as well as off-sale bottle sales.
City records also show a permit issued for $125,000 to remodel the 4,750-square-foot space in the lower level of 624 Main Ave.
City Auditor Steve Sprague said that the venue’s concept calls for people to drink wine on the premises and if they like it, to buy the bottle to take home.
The license would be for wine only, and the venue would not be open all the time, he said.
“I call it a taste and take. You can taste a wine and take it home with you. It combines on-sale and off-sale,” Sprague said Tuesday.
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“When somebody comes in with a business idea, we try to find something that works and fits. She actually has a concept that doesn’t fit” Fargo’s current liquor licenses, and “she really can’t make it happen without the city making this license," Sprague said.
“It’s worth looking at,” Sprague said. “What makes it unique: It’s a venue license but they are not open all the time, only for events.”
Sprague said that a class designation (perhaps WV for wine venue) and cost of a license would have to be determined. Sprague said a Renaissance Zone venue license does have an initial fee of about $5,000, with ongoing license fees in the $1,000 to $2,000 range.
Wall said the venue could promote the wine available at Maxwells and expand that side of their business. She said the business model would have patrons be able to sample wines and then be able to take a bottle home with them. However, wine sales would be exclusive to events; customers would not be able to simply walk up and buy a bottle of wine.
The venue would open for wine dinners and tastings on a regular basis, as well as be available for business and private events, but it will not operate as a restaurant or a retail shop, she said.
Wall said remodeling of the former VIP Restaurant, which for many years had also been known as the VIP Room, is underway.
“It’s really exciting, really cool,” Wall said. “We would really like to breathe some life into that space again.”
She has set up partnerships with caterers for food. Maxwells will not be used to cater events there.
“We’re just focusing on the wine side,” Wall said.
The venue will be owned by Mike Wald and Ramon Sosa, the owners of Maxwells. Wall will manage the venue, Sosa said Thursday, July 1.
Sosa said they are working with a local architect on a plan they believe will do justice to the historic building. He said the aim is to have the venue open by September or October.
"We’re exploring ideas with the space. It’s beautiful and big," Sosa said. "For years, we’ve been talking about expanding. We found this space and it’s beautiful."
The Liquor Control Board voted to recommend the City Commission approve creating a new license. But that is but a first step in a multi-step process.
The commission can then direct the city attorney and staff to draft the license language, Sprague said.
The license language would then go back to the liquor board for approval, and then be returned to the City Commission for first and second readings for final approval.
Once a license is created, the owners of the venue could apply for it, Sprague said.
“We’ll see what the City Commission has to say,” Sprague said.
The VIP Restaurant was hit hard by the economic disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In June 2020, the eatery closed its dining room and takeout and focused on its catering and take-and-bake menu.
It was later decided that the operation would drop everything but catering. In November and December, all of the restaurant's equipment - including ovens, walk-in freezer, tables, chairs, plates and silverware - was sold.