On the outside, The Twisted Cork looks like a run-of-the-mill liquor shop, but open it’s doors and you’ll quickly see that it’s anything but.
Like opening the wardrobe doors to Narnia, entering the Cork feels as though you’re entering another realm, it’s walls stacked with exotic wines and music always ringing from the venue’s stage, much to the delight of an ever attentive audience.
Owner Sue Slone, who purchased the business in Oct. 2013 from previous owner Gayle Turner, refers to the space as a hybrid boutique wine shop and music venue with an exotic and uncommon selection. With a house wine from California’s Fox Brook Winery and only a couple of Barefoot wines in stock, Sue Slone says The Twisted Cork prides itself on having what others don’t.
Sue Slone, known around the Cork as Momma Sue, has reinvented the Twisted Cork in recent years from when it was almost exclusively a wine shop, adding five nights of live music each week, including Lexington music legend Greg Austin from 6 to 8 p.m. every Monday along with regular comedy shows, more frequent wine tastings and trivia nights.
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The menagerie of events has helped Sue Slone to retain many of the Cork’s previous customers while adding countless new ones, leaving her and the small staff to always be on the move during events, serving both customers in the store and at their drive-thru window, which husband Prentice Slone jokingly likened to working in the fast food industry.
“It stays so busy,” said Prentice Slone. “Sometimes it feels like we’re working at McDonald’s!”
While the Cork has harvested a strong family feel among its staff and patrons, the family connections don’t stop with Sue and Prentice Slone. Daughter Whitney Acke books music at the venue, even performing herself on occasion.
According to Sue Slone, she initially acquired the venue in hopes of it being a home base for Acke to perform. However, Acke has become less available to perform in recent years, paving the way for a bevy of other local artists to shine on the Cork’s stage.
Shortly after Sue Slone taking over, The Twisted Cork open mic was introduced.
In the years since, the event, held from 6 to 9 p.m. every Sunday, has grown to be the premiere open mic in Lexington, with the venue filled with musicians and curious music explorers on any given week. While the event sponsor has changed over the years from Red Barn Radio now to Listen Locally, a collaborative of artists wanting to making Kentucky’s creative community more inclusive, the excitement for the Sunday gatherings has only grown.
The open mic is now recorded and packaged into a radio show airing from 5-7 p.m. on Saturday’s on 93.9 WLXU-FM Lexington Community Radio, giving aspiring artists the chance to not only hone their craft in front of a crowd, but also reach even more ears through the airwaves.
The open mic also acts as a way for Acke, who runs the business on Sunday evenings, to scout talent to book to perform on other nights in the week. The process works much like that of an athlete coming up through the minor leagues, with acts “graduating” from the open mic starting on Wednesday nights before eventually moving to Friday and Saturday.
Even though musicians at the Cork typically only play for tips, Prentice and the venue staff put a humorous spin on paying artists for their time by “feeding the pig.” Several times during each show Prentice, who grew up on a pig farm and helps as an adviser at the Cork along with owning PGS computers for the last 25 years, will parade around the Cork hoisting a metal pig above his head and urging patrons to “feed the pig” some money.
According to Prentice, the idea came about after visiting music bars in Nashville while traveling with Acke to record.
“All of these bars have a pretty girl that goes around asking for tips,” said Prentice Slone. “I’m not quite as pretty, so I had to come up with something different to make people laugh.”
And laugh people have. According to Prentice Slone, the spectacle has spurred many of The Twisted Cork’s performers to write pig songs, with him joking further that they’re hoping to put a compilation album together titled Pig Songs.
If you go
What: Live music venue and boutique wine shop with music five nights per week and regular wine tastings, trivia and comedy nights
Where: 3344 Partner Pl., Keithshire Place Shopping Center
Signature drinks: Assorted wines (including several from Fox Brook Winery), a white Russianand Bulleit bourbon.