Investment bankers Henry Lee, Alan Vennes, and Bill Parodi purchased the 1909 Muswick Building at 923 West Seventh Street for $56,500 in 1990, intent on opening a business offering New York–style pizza and a variety of beers not commonly available in Little Rock. The building had previously housed the Urbi Et Orbi art gallery and later the DMZ punk rock club that catered to all-ages crowds. The new owners were schooled in pizza-making by the owners of Fellini’s in Atlanta, Georgia, and maintained the venue’s reputation as a location for fans of all ages to enjoy punk music. They were the first to offer Guinness and Bass Ale on tap in the capital city.
Vino’s held a regular “Fresh Blood Night,” in which new local bands could perform live sets. The most famous of these bands was Evanescence, which later won the Best New Artist Grammy Award in 2004. Vino’s also hosted such bands as Green Day, Christian metal band Living Sacrifice, and English folk band Fairport Convention.
Vino’s began brewing its own beer in 1993, first using a modified steam kettle procured from Cummins Prison and fermenting the brew in open fifty-gallon trash cans. They upgraded that system six months later and, in 1994, leased the adjacent Hodges Building at 921 West 7th Street to house the brewing operation and provide a non-smoking section for the restaurant; Vino’s later acquired that building. Lee bought out the shares of Vennes and Parodi in 1995.
The restaurant, with its close proximity to the Arkansas State Capitol, became a hangout for legislators and lobbyists. Lee’s connections with those people aided him in successfully seeing legislation that allowed brew pubs to sell their beverages to go, including on Sundays.
Vino’s continues its tradition of brewing its own beer, selling pizzas and calzones, and holding all-ages musical performances in the twenty-first century. Vino’s has also hosted poetry slams, theater performances, movie nights, and fundraising events.
The Muswick and Hodges buildings were listed in the National Register of Historic Places on January 21, 2009, as part of the West 7th Street Historic District.
For additional information:
Brinkley, Rhett, and Lindsey Millar. “Pizza, Beer and Punk: An Oral History of Vino’s.” Arkansas Times, February 2022, pp. 25–34, 36–37. Online at https://arktimes.com/arkansas-blog/2022/01/27/pizza-beer-and-punk-an-oral-history-of-vinos (accessed September 30, 2022).
Clancy, Sean. “Vino’s Party to Mark 25 Years.” Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, November 14, 2015. Online at https://www.nwaonline.com/news/2015/nov/24/vino-s-party-to-mark-25-years-20151124/ (accessed September 30, 2022).
Hill, Jack W. “Fully Fermented.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 19, 2010. Online at https://www.pressreader.com/usa/arkansas-democrat-gazette/20100919/287127154742118 (accessed September 30, 2022).
“Origins: Vino’s Brewpub in Little Rock,” Rock City Eats. https://www.rock.city/origins-vinos-brewpub-in-little-rock/ (accessed September 30, 2022).
Smith, Sandra Taylor. “West 7th Street Historic District.” National Register of Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at https://www.arkansasheritage.com/arkansas-historic-preservation-program (accessed September 30, 2022).
Vino’s Brew Pub. https://vinosbrewpub.com/ (accessed September 30, 2022).
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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