Q&A with Nicole Ulrich, who manages the food hall at Bottleworks

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Nicole Ulrich oversees operations of the latest component to open in the Bottleworks District, a massive food hall known as The Garage. The space, which currently features 10 dining and drink options and three retail spaces, opened early this month to much fanfare. Another five dining selections are on their way.

What does The Garage offer that you can’t find elsewhere in the city?

When you come in, the lineup is very eclectic. You can get Brazilian, Peruvian, Venezuelan food—really anything. We talk a lot about pushing the boundaries of visitors’ taste buds, because people are typically not going to a Brazilian restaurant, if they’ve never tasted the cuisine. But when you’re here and see the menu, and people talk about it, the buzz is so great that people want to try it. The great thing is that, if that’s not something (you want), you can still go over and get some American fare that you’re familiar with, like a burger or pizza.

What’s the best part of your job?

You get an opportunity to talk to the owners to hear a little bit about their story. I think it’s awesome to be able to sit and talk to an owner about their vision and their brand. That’s what’s unique about this space.

Is it challenging to run a large food hall during a pandemic?

This building is pretty large at 36,000 square feet. From a safety perspective, particularly in regard to COVID-19, we have been able to space our seating out quite a bit. We also didn’t finish out a couple of areas of The Garage for that reason; they will turn into leasable space on the other side of the pandemic, but by not moving forward on those, we were able to further separate our seating.

People are able to grab their food and disperse, or some of our tenants have paging systems, so you can find your seat and then you can come up to the counter and get your food once you’re paged. I think people are so excited for this project to be open, but everyone is very cautious and respecting each other’s space.

Given the pandemic, what does the next six months look like for The Garage?

Since we’ve opened, the interest has been phenomenal. We have a pretty intense vetting process for open spaces, and we have a few interested parties. So, for us, it’s really important to continue to lease the space, continue to be safe, and then also to build up what the summer looks like at the garage. We’ll have outdoor seating on most of our perimeter, and we’ll program the space with DJs, bands and live artists. I’ve got a lot of different ideas that I want to do to program the space—obviously keeping in mind COVID restrictions.

Is parking a challenge for the district right now?

Not really. We have two lots in the district so far, and I’m not seeing them get all that full yet. A lot of our traffic is from the neighborhood or nearby downtown area, so people just walk over.•

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