BY MIKE McCARTHY | MIRROR EDITOR — Shawn and Megan McClellan, the founders and owners of the popular Levi & Lilac’s Whiskey Bar in Maumee, are ready to branch out and create a second new restaurant in their hometown.
The McClellans signed a 15-year lease with the city of Maumee last week to open a new upscale eatery in uptown Maumee, just five blocks away from their first restaurant and a few blocks from their home. The McClellans aren’t revealing the name of their new venture just yet, but they want the people of Maumee to know that they have high hopes of making this new eatery a big success.
The Mirror sat down with the Shawn and Megan at Levi & Lilac’s recently to discuss their new enterprise. Here is what they had to say:
MIRROR: What compelled you to open a second restaurant when you already have a very busy restaurant in Levi & Lilac’s Whiskey Bar?
SHAWN: Our goal initially when we started Levi’s was that once it became successful, we wanted to expand, try something different, venture out. This is our livelihood now, so we wanted to kind of expand on that. After dealing with COVID, and once we were established, we knew we could try new things.
MIRROR: Where were you initially looking? What made you decide to open a new restaurant in uptown Maumee?
SHAWN: We signed on because of the city’s vision. We looked at a few other places: Levis Commons in Perrysburg, downtown Toledo, a couple of outlying towns. Nothing just really felt right for whatever reason. We were even in some lease negotiations with some people, and it just didn’t work out.
MEGAN: One day, we were taking a walk in uptown Maumee because we live in the area. We saw the city’s empty building on Conant Street, and we said, “I wonder what they are going to do with that?”
SHAWN: There was no “for lease” sign or “for sale” sign or anything, so I called our friend Josh Harris (Maumee City Council member) and he told us to contact Patrick Burtch (Maumee city administrator). We met with Patrick and had a good conversation. We knew that the city had intentions of putting a restaurant up there. You could tell by the renderings. So, being that we’re already in the area, we’re successful and we support Maumee, wholly, I think it was a good fit for both sides.
MIRROR: Do you feel that a new restaurant is needed in uptown Maumee?
SHAWN: What the city is looking to do up there, it fits well. We love The Village Idiot, Dale’s and Buster’s. We felt that even though we’re fairly close here (Levi & Lilac’s), there’s a need for more food uptown.
MIRROR: What kind of drink selections will you feature at your new restaurant?
SHAWN: We don’t intend to do anything small, as you can see with 350 whiskeys here. We’re going to have a very good wine offering. It’s not going to be super high-end. We want to offer the good low- to middle-range wines, but we also want to have a huge selection so that people can come and try them out.
MEGAN: We will have a D-1, D-2, D-3 and D-6 liquor license for Sunday sales. It will be a TREX license, which is designed to bring in new jobs and taxes for economic expansion.
MIRROR: Are you worried about having too much competition?
SHAWN: We’re not competing with ourselves, we feel, being five blocks away.
MEGAN: We’ve never really believed in the whole competition idea in that way because we believe in synergy. The more, the merrier.
MIRROR: What kind of food will you be offering at your new restaurant?
SHAWN: It will be a fondue dining experience, which is something very different in this area. We’re trying to build more on the experience side of it. The concept consists of a four-course meal, from start to finish. It’s focused on date nights, anniversaries and celebrations. Kind of a more intimate style of dining. We’re not going to have huge 12-top, 15-top or 20-top parties. It’s more of a romantic experience.
MEGAN: Yes, it can be romantic, and there will also be a lot of celebrations.
SHAWN: It’s becoming popular in a lot of the larger cities. It’s huge in Denver. There are several in Chicago. We’ve gone to Geja’s Café in Chicago for the past 10 years. That’s kind of our influence. They’ve been open for 60 years, so it can be done.
It’s very new to this area, but I think most people have a misconception on exactly what it is. They may think, “Oh, we dip cheese in our meal, or whatever.” It’s not like that. It’s meant to slow people down. You have conversations. You cook the food in front of you. There are times when you could be there for two hours and have a nice conversation. We will educate our servers on all of it. It’s an experience that we’ve always loved.
MIRROR: Are the four-course meals a requirement, or are there other dining options?
SHAWN: Oh, sure. You can come in for just dessert and wine, for instance.
MIRROR: What kind of seating will there be in the dining room and at the bar?
SHAWN: I want it to be a nice, beautiful dining room. Our goal for the bar is to not have a high bar back. We want it to be more open, where people are communicating. The bar will seat 20 people and will probably be U-shaped. There will be no TVs. Dining will consist of about 100 seats, mostly four-top tables that can be combined if needed. We’re not sure how many seats will be available on the patio. We won’t know until the city is done constructing it, but we do plan to have two garage-style doors that we can lift on nice days for access to the patio from the inside of the restaurant.
MEGAN: We will have some tapas-style food available at the bar if you want a little snack while you are enjoying a glass of wine.
SHAWN: There’s still a lot to figure out, eight months prior to opening, but that’s what we are aiming for. Just like when we built Levi & Lilac’s, ideas changed four or five times before we came up with a good concept.
MIRROR: What are your feelings about working with the city on this project?
SHAWN: Everything worked out timing-wise and Patrick and the people at the city were a blessing to work with through the whole process. Did we agree on everything? No, but it was very professional. Patrick has the same vision and wants to grow the uptown area and make it what it could be. Our decision was easy.
MEGAN: Yes, this opportunity was the one that I was most comfortable with.
MIRROR: What is the timeline for your new restaurant to open?
SHAWN: We met with a builder, refining plans, and he will serve as a general contractor for the best use of time on this project. We have an architect involved to help us figure the best locations for the kitchen and restrooms and storage. We initially anticipated opening in four to five months, but that was pushing it. Equipment supply issues could be six to eight months out. We’re shooting for February 1. If it’s done sooner, great!