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Hidden treasure: A look at Lake Geneva's own European oasis

Hidden treasure: A look at Lake Geneva's own European oasis

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Even without a breeze to sweep away the summer heat, the wine and laughter flowed freely during lunchtime on the patio at The Bottle Shop.

Technically located in downtown Lake Geneva, just across from the Samuel Donian Wetland Preserve overlooking White River, the wine shop offers an oasis with a European flair on its patio.

“It’s amazing how many people don’t know that we’re here,” said owner Beth Tumas.

Past the iron fence, two tables are visible on the patio, which actually runs the length of the back of the shop where another 21 tables sit among numerous plantings and a couple trees.

It was a pleasant discovery for Becky Kirchner, who is an agent for a real estate firm that has an office less than a block away from The Bottle Shop, 617 W. Main St.

She confessed she has fallen in love with the place.

“I clearly won’t come here when I’m working,” she said, “but I will be here after work from now on.”

Tumas said she hears it a lot — from people who wander off the beaten path into her store, discover the patio and sit outside to enjoy games, live music, and of course, the beverage of their choice.

Sally South took Kirchner there for lunch, after she shared several photos of the patio with her. The two are Illinois residents. Kirchner lives in Bull Valley, while South is in Wonder Lake.

South has been visiting The Bottle Shop with her husband for months.

“I always get the flights of wine, then typically I like to get some cheese and crackers,” she said.

Seated several tables away, under the shade of a larger, where a trio of relaxed, like-minded guests, also from Illinois.

Anthony and Cathy Aubin discovered The Bottle Shop a while ago, on a Lake Geneva shopping trip. Anthony is from Bloomington, while Cathy and Dennis Aubin are from Carol Stream.

“This has been our spot,” said Anthony.

While Cathy said the main draw is the wine, Dennis raved about the patio. “It’s just a nice, comfortable, laid-back place to have a couple of drinks and talk,” he said.

With the Covid-19 pandemic, being outside is an obvious plus for customers.

Tumas said they were socially distanced on the patio “before it was cool.”

“I don’t like being in a restaurant where you’re on top of each other,” she said. “What happens is people are having their own conversation and they don’t want to be hearing other people’s business.”

Like other businesses, the pandemic forced Tumas and her staff to grow accustomed to constantly changing its focus.

Earlier this year, Tumas opened the Grapevine Theater next door to The Bottle Shop.

Grapevine hosted monthly comedy events, where five comedians would give multiple shows a night.

Now, customer demand has changed. Rather than be inside the theater, Tumas believes more people are interested in the events she is hosting at The Bottle Shop patio.

“People are looking to get out, I’m finding, but they want to go where it’s safe and comfortable,” she said.

Live music is a big part of the event roster outside, where The Bottle Shop has also hosted activities ranging from Baggo to fundraisers, baby and wedding showers, even a rehearsal dinner.

Tumas said she prefers to have reservations for events in order to make necessary preparations — which, these days, involves cleaning more, ensuring extra space for guests, having masks available and using more disposable service pieces.

“We are not a restaurant, so everything is sold in pre-packaged containers,” she said.

In the near future, Tumas wants to have more musicians play the patio, and she is considering whether to continue a Bottle Shop event called the Big Taste.

Normally, the shop will set up six different tables of wine for customers to taste. “I’m curious if people are ready for that,” she said.

The Bottle Shop is currently open Sundays through Tuesdays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Wednesdays and Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

For more information, call 262-348-9463 and visit thebottleshoplakegeneva.com or The Bottle Shop Facebook page.

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