Inside Birch Road Cellar, a new Seattle club where you bring your own booze and scan a finger to enter

Birch Road Cellar co-founder Sharon Provins at the bar in the lounge area of her club’s new location in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

The Stimson-Green Mansion has stood on Seattle’s First Hill since 1901 — a historic landmark that dates to the family that moved west from Michigan to conquer the region’s ample timberlands.

More than 100 years later, a carriage house located behind the storied residence — which is now owned by the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation — has caught the eye of another entrepreneur from the Midwest. And that building is the new home of Birch Road Cellar, a private members club which originated in Chicago and has now set sights on Seattle and its influx of tech workers with disposable incomes.

The location is the third for Birch Road Cellar and first outside of Chicago. The bring-your-own-booze club is intended to give people a new option for gathering with friends that gets them out of the house but away from traditional bar settings — “your best night out that feels like the perfect night in,” reads  a tagline on the club’s website.

Founded in 2014 by friends Kim Bosse and Sharon Provins, Birch Road Cellar became a reality in Seattle just this month, but five years after Provins and her husband moved to the city because of his job in tech. She had been searching for the right location.

Birch Road Cellar is located in an old carriage house behind Seattle’s historic Stimson-Green Mansion. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

“I just felt like Seattle was a perfect fit, especially among the culture of the craft beer industry, the craft whiskey, plus the wine country,” Provins said. And while new construction is impossible to miss across the city, housing everything from people to giant tech companies to restaurants and bars and more, Provins said they made a point of jumping on something with history and charm.

The carriage house has been tastefully updated, with new counters and cabinets and appliances added. The first floor has a comfortable living room lounge feeling with lots of brick and wood and a long bar. There’s plenty of glassware for a variety of drinks, and mixers, too. There are no servers and nothing for sale. And there are no TVs. If you need to watch “the game,” go to a sports bar, Provins said.

“We are all about being a place where you can have a conversation without screaming at each other,” she said.

(GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

One of the biggest perks is a temperature-controlled cellar with lockers to store your personal booze stash. Just like at the front door, access can only be gained through the scanning of a member’s finger. Birch Road likes the technology better than a membership card or code, which are passable, because scanning means you truly have to be a member whose print is in the system to gain entry.

A WhisperKool wine-cooling unit keeps the room at an optimal 57 degrees. There are 200 lockers in the room, which is the number of memberships Birch Road will allow at the location. Monthly memberships are $105 for a half-sized storage locker (holds 10 bottles) and $135 for a full locker (24 bottles), with each membership covering two individuals and each individual allowed to bring two guests when they visit.

Sharon Provins uses a fingerprint scanner to gain access to the temperature-controlled locker area where members store their booze. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)
The cellar area features 200 lockers, some of which can hold about 10 bottles and others which hold 24. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Provins points out various technical and mechanical systems throughout, and shows pride in the skills she’s been picking up along setting up a small business. Her co-founder Bosse has remained in Chicago.

“I used to work in very large corporations where we had a tech guy. If your email wasn’t working, you called tech support. If your computer crashed, you got a new one,” Provins said. “Owning a small business, you are everything. You are the plumber, you are the tech support, you are the handyman, you’re everything. So in a lot of ways I’ve learned a lot of life skills. But it can be, the amount of research that goes into making sure that you do it right because it is your own.”

The upstairs of the carriage house features a dining room that can be reserved for anything from a board meeting to a “Dungeons & Dragons” game night. Even Amazon’s Alexa is a member, as an Echo Dot was set on a side table nearby.

Birch Road pays respects to the horse that used to live in the carriage house. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)
An old photograph above the fireplace shows how the carriage house got its name. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

The historic character of the building is evident in various corners of the upstairs, such as in the bathroom, where an old half door was a onetime way for hay to be loaded into the space. A larger room called the hayloft is set up to be flexible for a variety of events, which Birch Road plays host to as part of the membership. An upcoming event will feature the head brewmaster from Stoup, the Ballard brewery, who will do a guided tasting and Q&A next month.

Sandy Turner is a brand new member at Birch Road. The project manager is currently looking for her next gig, and she was in Birch Road Cellar this week working on her laptop. She heard about the club when her partner showed her a link — “I made her make a reservation that minute!” she said of the tours that are necessary to jumpstart the process.

“The beverage part obviously is a plus, but I really like the social aspect of it,” Turner said. “It’s a really tremendous value for what you get. We both love wine, we love spirits, we love socializing. It’s a constant part of our lives, so it was a really easy decision.”

A dining room upstairs at Birch Road Cellar. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)
The hayloft room will serve as another area for members to gather, or as a larger event space. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

While Turner loves supporting local bars and businesses, she is attracted to the intimacy of the club and the fact that it’s such an intentional choice. And community was important.

“I’ve been here 25 years, and you know Seattle — the social aspect’s a little bit hit or miss in general,” Turner said. “This is the best of both worlds. People who are signing up to be a part of this community are enjoying spirits, which we love, and obviously if you’re signing up for this sort of thing, you’re willing to put yourself out there to engage with other people.

“It’s kind of a win, win, win,” she added.

Birch Road Cellar is located at 1212 Minor Ave., and open daily to members 8 a.m. to 2 a.m.