Last week Sad City got the titillating opportunity to walk around the interior of the new-old downtown bar, The Russian Lady. The original Russian Lady was a favorite for years in the downtown scene, and stood out thanks in part to its giant “Mother Russia” statue of Catharine the Great that used to adorn the front of the building. Its visitors, in its heyday, included such notables as Paul Simon and Bob Hope. Although the statue was auctioned off years ago and repossessing it for the new location proved impossible, The Russian Lady is about to see a new heyday, or so her owner believes. The new space, with many antiques from the old bar and elsewhere, leads us to agree.
Owner and operator Jerry Fornarelli, who also owns Up or On the Rocks and The Tavern Downtown clearly built this place with a vintage vision. The décor is no run-of-the-mill downtown bar swank, but instead carefully chosen antiques amidst wrought iron banisters and billiard tables. Dark wood abounds, and there are private wooden booths that could almost be mistaken for parts of stagecoaches on the first floor. The second floor, which will be a vodka bar with reportedly 100 different types and infusions of vodka, also has evocative antiques (which have not yet found permanent spaces - but the bar ain’t open yet) and a mesmerizing view of the capitol building from one of its windows. The third floor will be a rooftop cigar lounge offering a multitude of tobacco flavors.
The stained glass throughout makes the interior feel almost cathedral-esque. All the light fixtures are vintage and cast a soft glow, and especially combined with shafts of colored light filtered through the stained glass, the ambience has a nostalgic, cozy feel to it. We were especially captivated by the wooden ceilings and the first floor bar top, which is constructed out of old doors (pictured below). Surely, it is a work in progress, but by September, we hope to see The Russian Lady restored to a new, veneered glory.