Rob Johnson sees his second Bulldog Beer and Wine location as not just a place to drop in to pick up a six-pack, but as a destination, a one-stop retail shop and a hangout that will help drive foot traffic in the bustling South End neighborhood.
I caught up with Johnson on Thursday, who said that in prepping the new spot, he feels more like a nervous bungee jumper than an excited kid at Christmas. Work on the new location has been in the works for a while, Johnson said, and it will be a relief to finally get to open the doors this fall and see how the South End community responds.
First of all, at over 4,000 square feet, the new store will be almost three times the size of Bulldog’s other location in Dilworth, Johnson told me. It will have 20 taps serving local beers like Triple C 3C IPA, Johnson’s favorite, and a full selection of other bottled beer, canned beer and wine.
Also unlike the Dilworth location, site No. 2 will have a mini convenience store, offering grocery items like dog food (as its name implies, it’s dog-friendly), nonalcoholic drinks, toilet paper and cigarettes. It will also have home-brewing materials and kits for aspiring South End brewers.
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Johnson said he’d been scouting the new location for months and settled on the spot – on Winnifred Street near the District Flats apartments – after having nixed options farther down South Boulevard, where the Publix and incoming Harris Teeter might have stiffened competition.
The new spot is walkable to a slew of other bars and breweries (Wooden Robot and Brass Tap, for example), the light rail, several South End apartment complexes and the Bank of America Stadium.
Tailgating spots will be available for Panthers games, Johnson said, and so will plenty of outdoor entertainment like cornhole. The large outdoor patio will be covered, he said.
Food trucks will be out front all weekend, including Thursdays, as well as during Panthers games. From having them at the Dilworth shop, Johnson is already friends with several local food truck vendors, who he said are “really excited” for the new store.
Johnson described the interior of the new store as having a rustic-chic motif, with large steel beams lining the ceiling and a handful of old Wild Turkey barrels repurposed for use as tables (you can still smell the whiskey on them, Johnson said). Inside there will also be plenty of entertainment, including old-school arcade games like Miss Pac-Man.
Johnson plans on having a soft opening four weeks or so before the grand opening, which he hopes will be in early October (so as not to miss too many Panthers games, he said).
This weekend, Bulldog Beer and Wine will host a two-day Hop Summer in the City Party at its current Dilworth location (2447-B Park Road, across the street from the Park Square shopping center) and will showcase a number of special IPAs. Food trucks for the weekend will be Tiger Yakatorion Friday and Yummi Bahn Mi Saturday.