Managers Dorian Wingard and Monda Ervin bring upscale experience to the Red Brick District

Something is happening below Sidebar restaurant in Downtown Columbus. Quite literally a hidden gem, The King Room, located on the lower level of 122 E. Main St., is a lounge catering to a particular type of patron.

“It's really about those persons who want to come to an environment that's intimate, that is mature, where the service is upscale [and] where the drinks are upscale,” said Dorian Wingard, who manages the bar with Monda Ervin.

After its soft opening in March 2016, The King Room shut down for restructuring and reopened in late December with Wingard and Ervin at the helm.

Entering the venue is much like stepping into a life-size jewelry box, with light bouncing off the crystal chandeliers and elegant, uniquely shaped mirrors. Adding further touches of class are the sleek bar, black leather chairs and couches, white columns and beautiful stone walls.

Guests can enjoy a specialized tappas menu from Sidebar and customized cocktails. There is also live entertainment, including comedy, spoken word and music at weekly events like “The Chill,” which has featured genres from R&B and jazz to folk. Wingard and Ervin stress they are interested in engaging with a variety of communities, whether they are individual customers or those who would like to rent the space for private or public gatherings.

“Businesses like ours make the mistake of pigeonholing themselves into … serving one demographic,” Wingard said. “Our approach is to open it up to … diverse crowds [and] diverse cultures.”

Although the bar is inclusive, entertainers are expected to meet a certain professional standard for Wingard and Ervin, who have corporate backgrounds. The duo even held a multiple-week, mass interview for prospective performers.

“A lot of the usual suspects that you probably heard of didn't make the cut … because of their business acumen or approach,” Wingard said.

But when a partnership does work, it's rewarding to witness, Ervin said. “[We're] providing that venue in order for them to execute their vision and their purpose and their goals in life,” she said. “We do a lot of coaching.”

That coaching extends to the staff. Wingard and Ervin make a point to ask their bartenders about their career goals beyond the bar, and help them execute a plan.

“We have expertise and networks beyond just pouring drinks,” Wingard said.

In addition to purchasing The King Room, expanding — Wingard has his eye on a cigar room — and growing the customer base, the management team hopes to set a trend Downtown, where there aren't many business owners of color, Wingard said.

“Within the next three to five years … we don't want to be the only one,” he said.