Once a storage area for a furniture store, a downtown Lexington building has been reinvented in the last two years, and the results are making waves not just across the commonwealth but across the country.
Ona, an inconspicuous watering hole with speakeasy-type vibes, opened on July 4, 2017,at 108 Church St. and quickly earned high praise from publications such as Esquire, which named the bar one of the 21 best in America for 2018.
The venture comes from serial entrepreneurs Coleman Guyon, Hunter Guyon, Chesney Turner and Case Mahan, who also have a hand in County Club and the recently opened Pearl’s pizza joint around the corner from the bar on North Limestone.
Nestled just around the corner from Minglewood in the midst of a crowded downtown bar scene, Ona is easy to miss unless you know where to look, which is just how Coleman Guyon and the other partners prefer. In fact, that allure is what drove them to lease the building, which had been storage for Merit Furniture, in late 2016.
“The way we open stuff is we’ll usually find the space first and let it dictate what we’re able to do with it,“ Guyon said. “This was a place we’d always looked at and thought something really cool could be in there.”
Letters spelling out “B-A-R O-N-A” on the transom windows are the only hint at what’s inside: A sophisticated ambiance with exposed brick, dark corners and hanging plants, for plenty of nooks and crannies to add to the Prohibition-era feel.
Thankfully Ona doesn’t have to sell their drinks in secret despite their secretive location, serving up everything from wines – red, white, rose and cans – to shot and beer combos and signature cocktails like Boat Drink, a frozen rum punch, and the Urban Cowboy, a bourbon drink mixed with smoked thyme honey, lemon and Heering Cherry Liqueur.
Also on the menu are a small collection of exotic rums, each of which comes from a different island and possesses a distinctly unique flavor sure to entice the sophisticated palettes of area bourbon connoisseurs.
“Being in Kentucky everyone has a good bourbon selection so we wanted to do something a bit different. We weren’t going to come out trying to match Bluegrass Tavern and their near 1,000 bourbons to choose from,” Guyon said.
Ona also deviates from the norm with “happy days,” a day-long take on happy hour that features daily drink specials ranging from $2 cheap beer cans on Mondays, half off on wine bottles every Tuesday, $5 daiquiris on Wednesdays and $5 Palomas on Saturdays.
The bar is run by managers Tom Kastanowski and James Lyons, both of whom have extensive backgrounds in the food and bar sectors. Lyons worked the bar at a la Lucie and Arcadium, among others, while Kastanowski was the longtime cook at County Club.
In line with its low profile, Ona never hosts music or other events, instead offering patrons a mellow environment slightly off the beaten path to grab a drink and catch up with friends, family, colleagues and strangers with minimal distractions or surprises at the door.
“It’s nice to have a space that’s a constant,” said Guyon. “There is never a cover charge at Ona. You’re always welcome to come in, chill out and grab a drink.”
What: Inconspicuous downtown bar with speakeasy vibes, daily drink specials and a signature frozen rum punch
Where: 108 Church St.
Hours: 5 p.m. – 2:30 a.m. daily