A rack of wine and some motivation

  • Brooke Fisher<br>Enterprise editor
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 11:25am

LAKE FOREST PARK — The owner of Burney’s Wine Corner calls the shop an “adult refuge,” which may hint at the fact that a valid ID is required.

Located at the far end of the food court area at Towne Centre, Burney’s Wine Corner has been open since Nov. 16. If the surname sounds familiar, it’s because the owner, Steve Burney (together with his wife, Leni, and brother, Tom) own Burney Brothers BBQ, also nestled in among the eateries at Towne Centre. The wine cafe opened exactly one year after the barbecue joint.

With a maximum seating of 25, the wine cafe offers wine by the glass, 2-ounce tasters, appetizers and dessert. Customers are welcome to bring in food from other vendors.

All 100 wines on stock retail from $5.99 to $19.99 and Burney purchases wines from the Northwest, California, Spain, France, Italy, South Africa and South America.

“We are a real value wine shop, not a high-end exclusive wine shop,” Burney, 51, said. “We can special-order those products, but we are looking to serve the community.”

New wines are added to the list on a frequent basis, Burney said, so patrons will “see something different from time to time.” The wine cafe is also a retail wine shop and customers can purchase entire bottles, which can be consumed at the cafe for an additional $7 corkage fee.

Because the cafe has a tavern license, rather than a restaurant license, patrons may not take unfinished bottles of wine home after they have been opened. Customers also are not allowed to take the wine into the commons area.

Burney, who formerly worked at the Mayflower Park Hotel for 17 years, selects the wines himself. He used to buy wine for the Mediterranean restaurant, Andaluca, and Oliver’s Lounge, located at the downtown Seattle hotel.

“These wines are ones that are more typically going to be found in hotels and restaurants,” Burney said, “You are typically not going to find them at a grocery store.”

Because the wines are value priced, Burney said customers are not intimidated to try a glass or buy a bottle, as it is not a major investment.

“People who have come in here are quite enthusiastic about it,” Burney said about the wine cafe.

The location was previously home to Everyday Eats, a culinary shop that offered cooking classes. Although the store closed, Burney said if an author is brought to the mall to give a cooking demonstration, the space is still available for that purpose.

Although he had planned for some time to bring barbecue to the north end, he said opening the wine cafe was much more spur-of-the-moment. The idea surfaced last August, when Everyday Eats closed, and Burney decided to sign a four-year lease for the space. The only remodeling that took place during the switch in ownership was some new paint and flooring, Burney said.

“I personally didn’t want to see this as a dark spot over here,” Burney said. “I thought ‘what could it be?’”

Although aware of current redevelopment issues at Towne Centre (the mall will likely be sold this coming year), Burney said he remains optimistic. It will be hard to make the wine cafe viable, he said, especially since its location is “off the beaten track,” but he said he expects it to eventually thrive.

“I think the energy behind keeping this place alive, vital and growing is strong,” Burney said. “This is the only place in Lake Forest Park for this community to have this kind of option.”

Leni Burney, Steve Burney’s wife, said people enjoy the wine bar because they can bring in food from other restaurants to enjoy with a glass of wine. It also allows patrons to escape from the “hustle and bustle of Towne Centre,” she said.

“It gives people another choice in the Towne Centre,” Leni Burney said. “Couples like to have wine and talk; it is more intimate.”

Although the wine cafe and barbecue are family owned, Leni Burney said it was her husband who came up with the idea for the wine cafe and made it come to fruition.

“He is really in his element when it comes to wine,” Leni, 52, said. “He can talk the socks off everyone.”

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