Dining With Denise Neil

A cocktail lounge for grownups will open in historic theater space in Wichita

Secret door reveals new Wichita bar

The Brass Tap is a speakeasy-inspired bar hidden behind a secret entry at Side Pockets near Kellogg and Tyler. (Video courtesy of The Brass Tap)
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The Brass Tap is a speakeasy-inspired bar hidden behind a secret entry at Side Pockets near Kellogg and Tyler. (Video courtesy of The Brass Tap)

When Steve Peters and his wife, Natalie, were living in Dallas, one of their favorite Saturday-night activities was hanging out in upscale cocktail lounges close to their home near downtown.

Now that they’re back in Wichita, they find themselves craving such a hangout. So they’re opening one.

The couple is hoping to have their new Vorshay’s Cocktail Lounge open in downtown Wichita by the end of March. They’re putting it in the historic Marple Theater space at 417 E. Douglas, which has been vacant since Fat Tony’s Grill closed there in February 2014.

“We really wanted to do something like that in Wichita, and downtown is to the point where it could really support it,” Steve said.

The bar will be high-end, he said, and it’ll offer a menu of standard cocktail drinks plus prosecco on tap. It’ll also have several beers on tap, Peters said, and he plans to serve food. He’s considering a menu of appetizers and pizza, but he hasn’t settled on the details yet.

Steve said he’s been working on the interior of the space for a while now, and people wouldn’t recognize it. It has exposed brick, Edison light bulbs, velvet chairs, comfortable booths, dim lighting and a lot of antique touches left over from the space’s theater days. He also put in a 30-foot bar.

His next step, he said, is updating the outside facade of the bar, which still has the old theater marquee.

Peters was once a partner in Blarney Stone at 2120 N. Woodlawn, which closed last April. He said he wasn’t looking to get back into the bar business, but when the owner of the Fat Tony’s building showed it to him, he saw potential. And it doesn’t hurt, he said, that a big new Hilton Garden Inn is about to open right next door.

Peters said he may eventually begin offering music by jazz and blues duos in the space, and he’s keeping the giant screen that’s on the wall in the back. Vorshay’s won’t be a sports bar, but he may show big sporting events like Wichita State in the NCAA tournament on special occasions.

He borrowed the name for the bar from the 1998 movie “Rounders,” which included references to a poker club called Vorshay’s.

“I thought that was kind of a sexy sounding name,” he said. “It’s unique and different and something you’d remember.”

Steve, 41, said Wichita has enough night clubs and bars for the younger set. He wanted to offer a place where he and his wife would enjoy hanging out.

“Wichita needs something a little more elevated, I think,” he said. “If you come here, you can hang out and drink like an adult.”

A glimpse inside the Dockum, a Prohibition-style speakeasy bar in the basement of the Ambassador Hotel in the heart of downtown Wichita. (Video by Fernando Salazar/The Wichita Eagle)

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