Alley Wine Bar Owners Toast Zoning OK For Midtown Site

Hard-won Detroit permission clears the way for a former garage to be reborn as a courtyard wine bar, say two relieved entrepreneurs.

"Alley Wine finally gets zoning approved! The ball is finally rolling after 20 months of 'negotiations,' " co-owner David Knapp posts Wednesday morning on the startup's Facebook page. "Special thanks to the City Planning Commission and staff, City Council and last but certainly not least, Midtown Detroit Inc.!"

He and business partner Lynne Savino will renovate a one-story brick building they bought in an alley between Alexandrine and Selden, south of Second Avenue. Alley Wine, reachable only by foot or bicycle, will serve domestic and foreign wines, cheese and meats. 

Acoustic live music is planned occasionally, according to its website, which features the computer-generated rendering above. "We also plan to supplement our revenue by retailing wine, beer, cheese, salami and other menu items," the site says. 

No opening timetable is announced for the project, which awaits a buildout of the onetime parking structure.

Alley Wine was a 2011 Hatch Prize finalist in a funding contest sponsored by Comerica. Its pitch then described plans for "one of the city’s most enchanting and unassuming destinations," the Woodward Spine news site reported.

During the warmer months of the year, a lot of our business will be focused on using and promoting our outdoor space. 

Lynne Savino and David Knapp are the owners of Alley Wine.

Knapp, originally from Livonia, is a Detroit architect and Realtor who's restoring a historic duplex in Midtown. Savino, 54, was raised in West Bloomfield and has more than 20 years of experience in the food and wine industry. She lives in northwest Detroit's Green Acres neighborhood near Woodlawn Cemetery. 

The pair, who originally had a third partner, see their venture as "a catalyst for what other neighborhoods can do with their obsolete, obscure and unassuming spaces." Here's how they put it in a 2001 interview with Jeffrey Buck of Woodward Spine:

We’re creating a place that will reshape the way we envision not only distressed properties, but how we can repurpose obsolete buildings and create new retail experiences. . . . We firmly believe that it's a unique idea and setting that can not only cater to the existing neighborhood, but expand the growth and progress of Midtown.   

-- Alan Stamm

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