Attention sinners, saints — Witness ready for first service on Broadway

(Image: Alex Garland for CHS)

(Image: Alex Garland for CHS)

The secret, Gregg Holcomb says, is to slap the mint. Not grind it. Not mash it. Just break the oils free gently. There’s a certain way to make a proper mint julep. It may not be Canon. But it is certainly gospel.

Thursday night, barring any flood of biblical proportions, Witness is set to make its official public debut on Broadway bringing Capitol Hill’s craft cocktail culture to its main strip.

CHS first reported on longtime Hill barman Holcomb’s plans for a “new Southern” cocktail bar in May as work first began to transform a short-lived fish and chips joint at 410 Broadway E into a church-inspired house of spirits. “You’re offering your testimony, your presence — there is kind of like a revelation standpoint,” Holcomb said about the Witness theme when we talked to him earlier this year.

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Re-Settle Design, also behind the pub look at Capitol Cider, has created a space that feels, indeed, like a small house of worship tucked into — an on warm nights when the roll-up front can be lifted, opening onto — Broadway. It’s not overly theme-y and will be less so after some of the church lady hats currently hanging on the wall slowly disappear. A row of authentic church pews lines the southern wall of the Southern bar. Behind the bar hangs a large painting of the old South created by the father of one of the joint’s owners. Staff is dressed in their Sunday best.

Holcomb lives with his wife and five-year-old son a few blocks from his new creation — the first bar he has opened on his own. He had notions of a pre-Pride debut but the project missed the mark by a country mile. In the meantime, you may have seen a few staff meetings and interview sessions on the sidewalk in front of the business as construction was underway inside. Challenges getting the space into shape continued into Wednesday night’s preview event as plumbing problems forced an early end to the party.

With prayers that the plumbing problems are behind him, the honest-to-goodness church pews in place and the build-out complete, Holcomb tells us the biggest change of plans has been the miracle in the Witness kitchen where Jesse Elliott has been able to squeeze more out of the limited space behind the counter than Holcomb could have dreamed. The more ambitious than initially planned menu ranges from $7 bacon peaches to $12 pork and beans and $13 baby back bone marrow. Elliott is also taking a baptismal plunge headlong into a biscuits and gravy and johnny cake-filled brunch starting with Witness’s first weekend of business.

Behind the bar, Holcomb’s years at Knee High Stocking Company and Chez Gaudy have shaped about as down home a craft cocktail menu as a craft cocktail menu can be. A “Soul Tonic” gin and tonic — with “aromatic lime cordial” weighs in at $8. The Champs Elysees will set you back $11. A mint julep will run you $10. The mint will be slapped.

Witness is located at 410 Broadway E. Hours are Monday to Thursday, 4p to 1a, Friday, 4p to 2a, Saturday 9a to 2a and Sunday 9a to 1a. You can find full menus and more about the project at witnessbar.com.
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23 thoughts on “Attention sinners, saints — Witness ready for first service on Broadway

  1. Been looking forward to their opening and wish them every success

    (And, for the record and as incredible as this may seem for some, this appears to be another “not a bank” on Broadway.)

    • Bait Shop is a great and friendly bar on the north end of Broadway … though obviously angling for a different clientele than Witness.

      Either way, glad to see this place opening up along what has slowly become a healthy Broadway block of awesomeness.

  2. I’m extremely white and am thirsty for a drink that costs $15 or more. I don’t have time to walk more than 2 blocks to bask in my obscene wealth. When will this be open and are there any $16+ olive plates available?

    • Thank you for your substantive contribution. I’m sad that you are butthurt that a bar is opening that may not meet your standards of … what, exactly? Affordability? Hipster compatibility? Proximity to your dealer? Hard to tell.

      As a suggestion, if you step off that high horse for half a picosecond, you’ll realize that not everything is built for you. This is sadly true despite the fact that you are a very special snowflake who deserves a perfectly accommodating and comfortable world built around your needs and desires.

    • You really don’t see anything problematic about yet another upper class whites-only cocktail bar (there must be a dozen now) in an urban neighborhood that prides itself in diversity and artistry?

      Not everything has to be progressive – that’s why we have Bellevue – but there’s a difference between having one country club bar and having ONLY country club bars in Capitol Hill.

      I’d donate to a City of Kirkland marketing campaign to become the new Seattle Magazine-endorsed tourism spot for suburbanites, so they’d stop bulldozing Capitol Hill for their crap.

    • Unsuccessful troll is … hilarious! But kudos for trying to playing a race card. I’m certain the owners of Witness would love to talk to you about their racial segregationist business plan.

      Seriously, what the fuck?

  3. Zzz. Another cookie cutter “cocktail” bar for yuppies to act like snobs in. Capitol Hill is the least original, least creative, biggest sheep mentality area in the entire northwest.

    • And your contribution to changing this is … what, exactly? Or are you just a hater?

      Seems to me there’s a lot of people who talk about how Capitol Hill is so terrible … but while you only bothered to take the time to bitch about it on the Internet, this business put up time and money to create a space they think the neighborhood wants.

      So enjoy … Northgate, I guess? *shrug*

  4. nice — saw the wall open and a bustling scene for what must’ve been a soft opening last night. that block of broadway really has taken on some major upgrades over the last year.

  5. I can smell the guy’s downdrift as he huffs his own farts. I can dig a well made cocktail once and again, but when you gotta drum up a theme and pitch it like “Can I get a witness?” … this shit is going too far. To succeed at a cocktail joint, make a joint comfortable, make it classy, and don’t try so damn hard. Otherwise, you’ll get a flash in the pan, which is no good for you, your staff, or the neighborhood.

    Also, slappin’ mint ain’t no secret any more. It’s common sense, if someone is at all interested in a cocktail in the first place. Quit trying to make a drink into some religious experience. It’s cool, it just isn’t THAT special to anyone that’s gonna make a return trip. You offering good, humble service alongside an affordable beverage is the thing that’s so hard to find.

  6. I’m just curious if the same people here who are complaining about this bar opening up are the same ones who were complaining about Office Max opening a store two blocks away. So, you complain when a big national chain moves in, and then you still complain when a local bar owned by a Capitol Hill resident opens up? Exactly what if anything would make you happy?

    The fact is that this IS a local business opened by someone who obviously cares about improving the neighborhood, whether it meets your lofty expectations or not. And good for them, I hope they do well. I’ll certainly stop in for a cocktail or three.

  7. Gregg enjoy the venture , I have so much respect and belief in you !
    I have worked with you and I have nothing but good comments about your
    concept, service, professionalism. Give it your best an all will work out !

    Ross

  8. Pingback: Witness Bar « The Ink Collar Worker™