Dana’s, Night Train and Blue Bottle usher in a new era of nightlife on The Landing

When Columbia Street West (or C-Street as locals called it) and Bourdon Street Hideaway closed four years ago, there were many questions about what the future would hold for the buildings. 

By 2022, it was announced that the west end of the Landing would be home to two bars and a bottle shop, all operated by Be Better Hospitality, a group of six young hospitality professionals aiming to provide a fresh take on the industry in Fort Wayne.

The opening of Dana's and Night Train mark the return of nightlife to The Landing.Now, two years after the announcement of what was to come, Be Better Hospitality has successfully launched three new businesses on The Landing and guests are finally walking back into 135 West Columbia Street, but this time it’s updated and reimagined as Dana’s, Night Train and Blue Bottle Shop.

Trevor Scovel, who manages development for Be Better Hospitality, says no bar in Fort Wayne is more iconic than Columbia Street West, so he and his team knew whatever filled that space next had to be special. The team at Be Better thoughtfully developed a pitch of concepts that modernized the feel while respecting the history.

“There's not a bar that's more iconic in the city, where everyone's parents had their 21st birthday here,” he says. “It's a space that speaks to so many of our walks of life, so many people that have been here or left or lived here their whole life, whatever it might be, and so we kind of thought it's kind of perfect in the sense that it's like the final part of the whole Landing development project.”

The vestibule at Dana's remains the same as it was when the building was home to C-Street. Scovel says he believes their unique take on the buildings was a big selling point for Model Group, the Cincinnati-based developer that oversees The Landing. Their goal was to create two different versions of a neighborhood bar, both welcoming and timeless, as well as a highly curated and educational bottle shop.

“The ideas of Dana's, Night Train and Blue Bottle– they weren't they weren't things that we were planning on putting somewhere else and we were looking for the building,” he explains. “We found that space and got to work on what belongs here and what the community needs.” 

These concepts were developed specifically for the space and the community. The group spent untold hours researching the history of the space and figuring out how to incorporate that history into their ideas.

“Creating spaces that not only fit that historic build, but that are going to age well, but also fill a gap within the local market– we knew that there was a desire and a need for more nightlife,” explains Preston Wallace, who oversees hospitality and public relations for Be Better Hospitality.

The respect the Be Better team has for the history of the space is undeniable as preserved details invite guests to remember the previous life of the legendary spot while experiencing the renaissance of nightlife in Fort Wayne.

The refurbished back bar features woodworking details and green tiles.At Dana’s, the atmosphere is intimate and elevated. White quartz countertops, dark tables, stained glass windows and gold accents create a modern bar feel within a classic, historic-looking space. Details like the stained-glass windows, doors and back bar are left from the building’s time as C-Street. The name “Dana’s” comes from Dana Columbia, who is considered the founder of Columbia Street.

Wallace says Dana’s is a great place to grab dinner and a cocktail and hang out, but if an elevated cocktail bar isn’t your style, the Be Better team has also transformed the former Bourbon Street Hideaway into Night Train, a basement cocktail bar, where guests can expect music, a little bit of dancing and quality beverages. 

The exterior to Night Train.Night Train was like the other side of the neighborhood cocktail bar– a place that's definitely more late-night friendly, open till 3 a.m. every night of the week,” Wallace says. 

If a “basement bar” makes you think of a speakeasy, you’re not alone, but Night Train is no speakeasy, nor is it “your father’s basement bar” according to the website. Wallace says that concept is played out and what they’ve created is something much more playful and approachable.

Colorful booths line the walls inside Night Train.From colorful booths to fun lights and Mardi Gras-themed confetti epoxied to the floor, everything about Night Train creates a playful space. Much like the upstairs space, the Be Better team made sure to leave hints about the building’s former life, like the aforementioned Mardi Gras-themed confetti on the flooring or the somewhat hidden time capsule. 

The name “Night Train” is an homage to the nearby train tracks, Wallace says.

Mardi Gras confetti in the floor at Night Train, a ode to the days of Bourbon Street Hideaway's time in the space.The third and final part of Be Better’s presence on The Landing is Blue Bottle, a boutique bottle shop. (If you frequented C-Street, the room once occupied by pool tables is now home to Blue Bottle.)

While the space might be small, the selection inside is more curated than what is available at a typical liquor store. Scovel and Wallace say throughout their time in the hospitality industry customers often inquire about the type of beverages available and about how to recreate a drink at home. While bartenders can often provide tips and tricks, sourcing the right ingredients can be tricky, which is in part what inspired them to create a boutique bottle shop. Inside, guests will find a variety of spirits and wine, cocktail tools and more.

The exterior of Blue Bottle Shop.They say they recognize the shop might be filling the need for a very niche part of the community, but they’re hopeful it will also help them connect and engage the community with education. And in the future, Scovel says they hope to use the space for small educational events.

“It’s easy to pull in eight to 10 people and do a class or a tasting or cocktail training, whatever we can do as a way to engage and give you that knowledge,” Scovel says.

Inventory on shelves at Blue Bottle Shop.The inspiration for Blue Bottle has historical roots too– Wallace says the spot was once a convenience store and bottle shop. Additionally, Be Better intentionally made their spaces bars, not restaurants to emphasize the beverages they serve, which makes the quaint bottle shop a logical piece of the puzzle.

“We wanted them to be bars first,” Scovel explains. “We say that a lot because pretty much every nice bar in Fort Wayne is really a restaurant first, you know, which is great. It just means that it caters more to restaurant crowds. There are more rules when it comes to if you can stand, it's probably more reservation-focused and you're kind of there to just get food. The drinks are second. We wanted a space that could be drinks first and the food still have just as much quality.”

When it comes to what’s on the menu, guests can expect a selection of thoughtful food and beverage options with vibes that mirror the atmosphere of each bar.

Scovel and Sam Albertson, operations and logistics for Be Better, are both seasoned bartenders, and with the help of Spencer Maule, who manages beverages and education for Be Better, they’ve crafted a unique beverage experience within their bars.

Be Better Hospitality also brought on Chef Adam Heller to serve as their culinary director and much like the other details through their concepts, Be Better has carefully curated a menu for Dana’s and Night Train.

“It really wasn’t about finding a chef to find someone that could just cook good food,” Scovel says. “We wanted to find someone that’s really a great leader that believes in culture the way we believe in culture, that really wants to develop a team and Adam is 100 percent that.”

At Dana’s, Scovel says the menu is elevated, high-end bar food with a French influence. He describes the cocktails as “adventurous” with “more unique ingredients.”

Seating at Dana'sOn their French-inspired menu, guests can expect dishes like ratatouille, cote de boeuf (dry-aged ribeye) and fried olives for dinner and French omelettes, eggs Benedict and sticky toffee foie waffle (toffee stuffed waffle, seared foie gras and blueberries) on their weekend brunch menu. Desserts like profiterole (cream puff) are also featured on Dana’s menu.

While the two bars might share a kitchen and prep space, guests can expect to see a completely different menu at Night Train.

So what’s the theme for Night Train’s menu? Scovel says it’s the late-night food you want– wings, sliders, fried pickles and pizza logs (pepperoni pizza egg rolls served with ranch).

“Still delicious and high quality,” he says, “but a little late-night food.”

Going from one business to four in under five years is a leap, but the team at Be Better is eager to jump in anywhere they need to to make their collective dreams happen. It’s what they did for Penny Drip at its opening in 2022 as Jeorgia Fortney, who oversees service and community engagement for the hospitality group, stepped into a general manager role and Maule took on the role of bartending for the cafe.

As Wallace puts it, the beautiful thing about the team is the diversity of skills and talents from each team member, while each person is still involved in a little bit of everything.

Stairs take guests from the sidewalk to the basement which holds Night Train.Much like their collaborative team effort internationally, Wallace says they’ve also relied on others in the community, like One Lucky Guitar, Design Collaborative and Model Group, as well as the local history society, who all contributed to creating the bars and bottle store seen on Columbia Street today.

“Matt Kelley and his team have been absolutely instrumental in helping us really take some of these raw ideas and visions that we had of what these concepts were, it could be, and turning them into something really beautiful, polished and unique,” he explains. “Design Collaborative's another one, in terms of architectural design and build out, a lot of back and forth with them, in terms of really making the space of what it is and what it's going to be for years to come.”

Their attitudes and business philosophies have proved successful for Penny Drip. In the past year, the group has had zero turnover at the cafe.

“I think what sets us apart as a hospitality group is that because we are so people-focused and hospitality-driven, our culture, I mean, hands down, sets us apart,” Wallace says. “It's almost unheard of to have, by and large, the same staff that you started and opened with. We have that at Penny Drip.”

They’re determined to bring that same culture to Dana’s, Night Train and Blue Bottle on The Landing. 

“It’s a lot of learning on the fly, like learning things as you go, making mistakes as you go, correcting them as you go and there’s something really powerful and beautiful about that and really inspiring,” Wallace says. “It does motivate you to be up early on the job site at 7:30 in the morning to make sure that every detail, everything that you envision, you're really able to pull off and bring to life, and it does, it takes a village.”

You must be 21 years or older to enter Dana’s, Night Train and Blue Bottle. All are open seven days a week. Dana’s is open from 4 p.m. to midnight (with hours for brunch to be announced later). Night Train is open from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. and Blue Bottle will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
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Brittany Smith is Input Fort Wayne's Managing Editor. Previously she served as Assistant Editor and participated in the College Input Program. She also volunteers for Northeast Indiana Public Radio.