Japp's, the Main Street OTR cocktail bar that's deftly quenched adult thirsts for over eight years, recently received a well-executed makeover. The renovation is a direct result of award-winning bartender and owner Molly Wellmann's new opportunity to personalize and update the bar since acquiring sole ownership.
Now, if you're a fan of Japp's (and let's be honest, who isn't), have no fear: the bar still feels like good old Japp's. When you walk in, you'll still enjoy old-timey cocktails under the same warm lights on the same beautiful bar, but now the space feels lighter, more open and atmospheric, and overall more refined than before. The refreshed color scheme ditches the browns, yellows, and greens of old for a brighter palette of muted pinks and island blues. The formerly dull grey ceiling now glows copper above familiar hanging pendant lights, and the old lead glass that spans the width of the facade above the awning, which was formerly blacked out, has been uncovered to allow more light to pour into the bar. All of the hardwood floors were refinished, and a geometric design bearing a series of emerald Rookwood tiles beneath a skylight is now prominently featured.
Among the most radical changes made was the removal of the large pergola that enclosed tables and chairs on the right side of the bar. Today, Japp's boasts an elevated, custom-made banquette free of the low roof and sightline-disrupting columns from before.
For the last eight years, Molly focused on establishing Japps' excellent cocktail menu. The bar's aesthetic wasn't truly hers, and she fancied a refresh—a new twist on an old Main Street favorite that was all hers.
Working with designer Susana Tolentino, she hung old photos of Cincinnati on the walls to underscore her affinity for local history. She put seating in the front windows so patrons can enjoy the Japp's unique view up and down 12th and Main Streets while drinking cocktails. A neon sign bearing her catchphrase "Are you thirsty?" was custom made at the Sign Museum and hung in the front window. The back area, formerly a sort of couch-laden pass-through to the bathrooms, is now a comfortable seating area that feels more like an intimate lounge than a corridor thanks to the new Bromwell's fireplace.
"I always wanted a lounge," she says with her signature smile.
The new Japp's wasn't built in a day. It took roughly three months to transform the old space. During that time, regulars patiently sat through closures and limited open hours, sometimes expressing concern about how their favorite Main Street bar would feel after it was refinished. Thankfully, with Molly at the helm driving the remodel, their fears dissipated when they saw the final build the weekend of BLINK. She made sure the changes made to Japp's enhanced the original features of the storied 1870s building while simultaneously paying homage to Cincinnati and its people.
One of her key concerns was making sure everyone—regardless of their level of mobility and seating preference—could comfortably enjoy a drink at Japp's. The raised banquette offers a high vantage point for those who want to sip an Old Fashioned while drinking in the overall scene of the bar alike. Lowered tables and chairs, refinished leather couches, cushioned stools, and club chairs by the fireplace are ideal seating areas for toasting friends and family. The smoke-free, improved patio, which is still changing at the time of this writing, complements an obscure 19th-century cocktail with a breath of fresh air. And, of course, what would Japp's be without its bar chairs?
The live music and regularly scheduled programming patrons have come to expect at Japp's continues unimpeded. Burning Caravan on Fridays and Hot Magnolias every other Saturday are still part of Japp's DNA. And on Saturday night after 9 PM, the rugs roll up and the furniture is pushed aside in the lounge to make room for the Super Secret Living Room Dance Party—an event which, perhaps unintentionally, gives a knowing nod to a popular facet of Japp's own recent history that has since passed.
Molly's enthusiasm is immeasurable for her bar and its remodel. "It's all for the people of Cincinnati and their friends and family to enjoy," she says.
- - -
Japp's is located at 1136 Main Street (45202).