By Sue Botos
After about a year and a half, Rocky River’s Lizardville will be doing a chameleon-like change in a few weeks as the beer store and whiskey bar is converted into a family-friendly Winking Lizard Restaurant.
According to the Winking Lizard marketing department, the “family friendly” vibe of Rocky River is more conducive to the local chain’s traditional restaurants and their extensive menus of wings, burgers, pizza and children’s specials.
“Rocky River is a family-friendly neighborhood and Lizardville is a 21-and-over establishment,” commented the Winking Lizard’s Jamie Guzik. He added that the tavern would move to the basement of the popular chain’s longtime Lakewood location on Detroit Road.
“It will work better in the basement in Lakewood because there is a younger demographic in that area,” Guzik stated. He said that while successful, a lot of customers wanted to bring their children into the Center Ridge Road Lizardville, housed in a former Donato’s Pizza building, and had to be turned away.
In addition, Guzik said that proximity to full-service Winking Lizard restaurants is also a plus for Lizardville. He said that one in Bedford Heights, across the parking lot from a parent restaurant, is doing well, as is a Copley location, which Guzik said is “under the same roof” as a Winking Lizard Tavern. “That concept put together works well,” he commented.
The spacious basement in Lakewood will also be another draw, according to Guzik, who said that the present bowling alley, left over from the building’s days as an Elks Lodge, would be removed and the space renovated. The historic building dates from 1915.
Rocky River’s Lizardville was originally billed as a laid-back, intimate, adults-only destination, seating about 40. According to a 2012 interview with John Lane, partner and vice president of operations for Winking Lizard, it was to be a copy of the Bedford Heights location. At that time, Lane said that the location was to be “the opposite” of the child-friendly parent restaurants, highlighted by a selection of 600 beers and about 170 brown whiskeys served up by a well-versed staff.
The offerings are heavy on local libations with many draft beers from Ohio and neighboring states on tap. Shelves along two walls hold the extensive beer collection and customers are able to make a selection, and have it “blast chilled” to enjoy immediately.
While Lane described Lizardville as a “beer and whiskey lover’s paradise,” a limited wine selection plus cocktails, including the signature Lizardville Mule, are also served.
In addition to onsite quaffs, Lane said that Lizardville customers are able to purchase their favorite brews in the atmosphere of a Belgian beer shop.
Edibles at Lizardville are not as extensive as those of the Winking Lizard, with offerings such as flatbread pizza, sliders and other “small plate” items available for sharing.
Employees at Lizardville last weekend said that they had been offered positions at the Lakewood location. They added that renovation to the kitchen to accommodate a wider menu selection have also underway.
Guzik stated that a quick turnaround is expected for the Rocky River location. He said that Lizardville poured its last pint on New Year’s Eve, and is expected to reopen in mid January as a full-service Winking Lizard.