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Longtime friends Kim Bosse and Sharon Provins were sharing a bottle of wine in Bosse’s Chicago home one day in 2013, trying to decide where to go for the evening. Both women were in their 30s, and Bosse had young kids at the time, so they didn’t feel like going to a bar, but they also both wanted to get out of the house. As the conversation went on, they found themselves wondering: What if there was a private space where they could sip wine and enjoy each other’s company? “We just want to sit and talk all night basically,” Bosse says. “We didn’t want to have to fight for a bartender’s attention or get talked to by other random people.”
From that fateful discussion arose Birch Road, a private, bring-your-own-beverage (or BYOB) club with a monthly membership model like a gym or a co-working space. The company launched its first location in Chicago in 2014 and has been growing steadily ever since—opening another club in Chicago in 2016, plus one in Seattle in 2019. Now, they’re bringing the concept to Denver, with a new Birch Road location on track to open this spring on the border of the LoHi and Sunnyside neighborhoods.
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Bosse and Provins met when they were nine years old and both living in Northbrook, Illinois, a northern suburb of Chicago. Provins moved to the neighborhood when the girls were in fifth grade and Bosse helped show her around their school. The street where they lived was called Birch Road, which is where the club’s name comes from. “We’ve been best friends ever since,” Bosse says.
Before launching Birch Road, Bosse spent 12 years as operations director for hospitality company Three Headed Productions, which opened a wide array of bars and restaurants in Chicago. Provins, meanwhile, worked in financial services for several large corporations in New York City and South Korea before moving to Seattle. Both women were looking to transition in their careers when they founded Birch Road. “We definitely have the entrepreneurial spirit in us and it was a really good opportunity in our lives to take the risk,” Bosse says.
Though neither of the women live in Denver, Bosse has family here, so she feels a personal connection to the Mile High City—but perhaps more importantly, the two co-founders were impressed by the city’s bars, restaurants, and craft beer and spirits scene. “We try to set ourselves up for success by finding cities or neighborhoods that have that [beverage] culture as a foundation, so if it’s got a good food scene, a craft cocktail scene, distilleries, breweries, those are the type of people that really love the freedom and the BYOB aspect of Birch Road as well as the community you find. Denver’s got that for sure,” Bosse says. “I meet people who are like, ‘My friends think I’m crazy because I will drive here to get this brewery’s bottle or wait in line for a release.’ And I’m like, ‘Your friends think you’re crazy but you’re going to be very popular at the club. Your people are here.’”
The clubs are designed for people who are passionate about wine, cocktails, and beer—but they’re also intended to help foster personal connections more broadly. Especially as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, people are looking for new ways to meet people, Bosse says. “We have the people we work with, our close friends and whatever, but we’re kind of losing the acquaintances in our lives—and now, with working at home, we’re really losing that,” she says. “That random connection where you just get to small talk with somebody and it’s really enjoyable. We like the fact that the club is a space where you can meet people who come from totally different backgrounds.”
Memberships start at $105 a month and include unlimited fingerprint recognition access to the club; a locker in a temperature-controlled bottle storage cellar; and access to glassware, mixers, bar tools, and other necessities. Club members can also attend on-site events and tastings. Bosse and Provins like to give small business owners and wine, spirit, and beer pros a platform via the club—and, at the same time, introduce members to new brands they might enjoy.
Members can also reserve a private dining room for their own use and bring guests into the club (two guests at a time for normal use of the club; larger groups of guests are welcome when members reserve the private space). Each club has dedicated staffers who keep the bar stocked and the club clean, but there are no bartenders or servers. There are also different seating areas depending on whether members and their guests want to be social or prefer privacy, Bosse says. The light-filled, one-story Denver location will be furnished with sofas, rugs, cushions, and other home-like touches; guests can also enjoy a large, pet-friendly outdoor space with lawn games.
With Birch Road, Bosse and Provins hope to help democratize the private club experience, which has traditionally been reserved for people in the upper and upper-middle classes. Since they can bring their own beverages, members don’t have to worry about getting a massive bill from the club at the end of the month. And since there are no servers or bartenders, they don’t have to worry about tipping, either. (Bosse also pointed out that the minimal staffing helps cut down on some potential COVID risks and shields the business from labor shortage issues more broadly.) “You can dress it up, or you can bring in pizza and beer—it all works and it’s all welcome,” she says.