A Q&A with Merryweather + YachtSea co-owner J.C. Denison

We get the scoop on the new nautical-themed bar and restaurant coming to Butchertown.

An architectural rendering of a teal building and a sign reading "yachtsea"

YachtSea will be all nautical-themed, complete with portholes.

Photo by YachtSea

Fans of Schnitzelburg’s The Merryweather will soon have a new spot to try — especially if they’re looking for a full house on the high seas. Co-owners J.C. Denison and Leslee Macpherson are opening a new bar at 111 N. Wenzel St. in Butchertown called YachtSea this summer.

Denison gave LOUtoday an inside look at what’s on the horizon for the new nautical-themed establishment.

What can we expect to see on the menu?

The food menu will be comprised of a wide variety of “composed” hot dogs and brats, with an equal focus on house specialties and classics (Our Dig a Coney has been our most popular and beloved “classic” hot dog at our weekly Wednesday pop-ups at The Merryweather).

We’ll also have crispy crinkle cut fries tossed in YachtSeasoning, YachtChos, more fun snacks, seasonal food specials, and a tight-and-tasty oysters on the half shell program.

As far as the drinks, part of our menu will focus on Boat Drinks. We’ll definitely have a piña colada, an elevated Cape Codder, and some tropical classics like a mai tai and jungle bird. The rest of the cocktails will be seasonal and a little more refined. Leslee is getting together ideas and recipes for this section currently. We’ll also have great wine, a small but satisfying spirits list, and some great beers on draft.

What’s carrying over from The Merryweather and what’s going to be totally new?

We’re definitely trying to carry over the “neighborhood bar” vibe that The Merryweather has become known for. We want you to be able to pop in for a cheap beer and a hot dog, even if the whole boat/dice thing doesn’t do it for you.

My affinity for tropical cocktails will certainly carry over. We’ll also plan on having dim lighting and booths.

We’ll have our own food program and no pop-ups and totally new is everything Leslee Macpherson will be bringing to the table here. I’m super excited to be working with her again.

A sidelong rendering of the teal yachtsea building

YachtSea will be bigger than The Merryweather + feature in-house food options.

On a scale from restaurant to bar, where is YachtSea going to fall?

Bar with food. Not sure where that falls on the scale. My favorite food(s) have always come from bars. Maybe that was the booze talking... But I’m excited for people to work their way through both sides of the menu.

What are your priorities when it comes to making a place that’s fun and laid back? What goes into achieving that for you?

I think three key elements in achieving this are the lighting, the music, and the seating. I notice all these when I go out anywhere, and often at least one has been forgotten or not fully considered. I can forgive all sorts of other misfires or mistakes if those three elements are keyed in.

Excited to get the YachtSea playlist in front of a crowd. We have been working on it since we decided we were doing this. It’s currently over 5,000 songs deep. For context, you could hang out 24 hours a day for 11 days straight and never hear the same song twice.

Also, hey, we’re gonna have two nautically themed pinball machines to keep the fun going and a pretty cool deck.

What are you most excited about with YachtSea?

It’s always just so exciting to see anything go from vision to reality. Fruition! Also, we are both very excited to be a part of the bar/restaurant scene that is currently percolating in Butchertown. We know and love so many business owners and industry folks that work and live right there. We are looking forward to fitting in where we need to and making new friends in the area.

Will I be able to play Yahtzee at YachtSea?

DEFINITELY. We’ll have the analogue version around, and if they ever make a Yahtzee pinball machine, you better believe we’ll get it.

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