When the news broke a few months back that Prospect Heights would soon be a home to a “dessert speakeasy,” lots of people were really excited. Cake! Alcohol! Sugar! Sugar! Sugar! What could be better? Uh, well, for me anyway, a lot of things. I wasn’t particularly disposed toward being all that excited about any bar that billed itself as a speakeasy (it’s not 2008 anymore), nor did I really understand how the concept would actually work. Like, who would go? Would it only be an after-dinner or late-night spot? Was this going to be conceptually appealing to anyone looking for after-work or pre-dinner drinks? Was I just predisposed to being against this kind of thing because I don’t have all that much of a sweet tooth? So many questions, right? All of which is why I visited and reviewed the dessert speakeasy, Spirited, once it opened. Don’t judge a book by its cover, you know? Or in this case, don’t judge a bar by its questionable PR campaign.
And, as it turned out, when I visited Spirited, I found many things to like: The drinks were beautifully made and balanced, not least because Bhagaban Sahoo, the bartender and head of the beverage department, is one of the best bartenders I’ve ever encountered; the space itself is in a gorgeous, century-plus-old building with Art Deco touches, as well as being conveniently located; and the desserts all looked spectacular, well worthy of the accolades they quickly received. But as much as there were things about it that I liked, there were also clearly some issues: It didn’t seem to be integrated that well in its chosen neighborhood, and Bhagi confided in me that most nights were pretty slow; the few savory treats on offer were mediocre at best; it utilized its enormous, former-full-size-restaurant space poorly. In short, it still made no sense to me that Spirited would be able to stay open for very long, no matter how delicious the desserts and how well-crafted the cocktails.
And yet, I was still surprised to find out yesterday that Kimberly Wetherell, the owner of Spirited, has now started a GoFundMe page in order to weather the tough financial times in which she has found herself. Wetherell writes, “The past year has been a roller coaster in all of the best possible ways. I have built my company, Spirited , from the ground up, with very little more than a dream and a couple of recipes tucked into my pocket… Getting this far has been no small feat, especially as a one-woman show and even though each month we see an uptick in income, I find my company and myself at a critical financial juncture… The long and short of it is, starting up a high-concept restaurant in New York City is extremely difficult… Despite planning for the occasional flare-up or three, we’ve exceeded our limit and there are still several significant outstanding bills to be paid… And so I sit here at my desk in the basement storage room humbly asking for your help.”
Wetherell is looking to raise $10,000 to help get through the next couple of months, after which, she says, she will be better able to secure “long-term growth” because she’s “already working on selling a portion of the company to investment partners and that’s definitely something to get excited about” even though it won’t “help us make payroll next week.” It is about as genuine a plea for help as I’ve seen, and it’s impossible not to empathize with Wetherell, who—despite GoFundMe not having a mandatory rewards system—promises donors that she will do everything from “offering our kitchen to a chef in need” to helping with the “move up the five flight walk up” for donors. And many people have answered the call—including some in the food community—and have helped Wetherell raise over $2,700 in 12 days. If you’d like to donate, you can click here; or you can, of course, pay a visit to Spirited, right on the corner of Vanderbilt and Bergen. No matter the case, you can certainly take the time to think about what a risky financial endeavor it is to own your own business and feel grateful that you work in, uh, the totally stable field of online journalism or what have you.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen