By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Dec 23, 2010 at 9:06 AM

Kimberly Floyd describes The Hamilton, her soon-to-open East Side lounge, as a "faux hotel lobby."

"It’s going to be upscale, but in a more relaxed way," says Floyd. "More of a cross between Louis XV and blue jeans."

The Hamilton, 823 E. Hamilton St., will open for a private event on New Year’s Eve and then to the public soon after. Floyd says she will open as soon as her skylight windows are finished. The building has three giant skylights, along with cream city brick walls, vaulted ceilings and a spacious deck. 

The airy space  -- once a garage for the Gallun tanneries -- immediately appealed to Floyd because she saw potential for her long-time vision of a wine salon inspired by female sommeliers in the 1700s.

The Hamilton will specialize in wine and champagne, with 50-75 varieties to choose from, many of which come from small growers.

"I love the story of wine: the grower to the grape to the final end product of sitting around with friends and enjoying it," she says.

Previously, Floyd owned The Flying Hicca, a gallery, wine bar and deli in the Washington Heights neighborhood, and she was later the co-owner of Cuvee, a Third Ward champagne bar that is still open. Earlier this year, Floyd moved on to start her own business.

Floyd is no stranger to rehabbing buildings. She did most of the renovations on the Flying Hicca space herself -- she even won one of the mayor’s Urban Design Awards -- but decided to relieve herself of the blood-sweat-and-tears work this time around. Hence, she worked with numerous skilled trades people and hired local firms Quorum Architects and Flux Design.

"My desire to haul drywall is done," she says. "But I’ve always loved how community-oriented it feels to rehab a building. It’s a blast to take an old building and bring to new life. To keep it from getting smushed."

The Hamilton’s prices will range from affordable to pricey. It’s important to Floyd that The Hamilton does not get pigeon-holed as a "special occasion" place. She wants neighborhood people to feel comfortable stopping in at any time, so she plans to have moderately-priced glasses of wine and sparkling wine.

Eventually, Floyd plans to offer "really good Sonoma wine" on tap. Because made-for-tap wine is sold in large containers, it cuts out the cost of bottling and labeling and, consequently, the price per glass is less.

"Basically, it allows the customer to have a very high quality wine at a really good price," she says.

The Hamilton will also offer about 20 different bottled micro beers -- many of which will be local -- and cocktails. "We won’t have any rail drinks, just call and up," she says.

Floyd says she plans to offer classic cocktails made in a healthy way with fresh juices and garnishes. She is in the process of developing alcohol-infused coffee, tea and chai drinks, too.

"I would also like to specialize in cognac," she says.

In the mid ‘80s, Floyd lived in Los Angeles and San Francisco where she met people who regularly went to Napa and Sonoma. These friends helped her have what she calls a "champagne epiphany."

"I had an unbelievable glass of Cristal and I was instantly upgraded from ‘poet wine'," says Floyd, who is a former member of the folk / rock group Bent (now a rockabilly band called Crazy Rocket Fuel).

"And over time I realized I just love wine and champagne. I love the people who grow it, sell it and drink it," she says. "There are few things I love more than champagne."

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.