Alba Estenoz, who grew up in Spain, has been practicing her dessert craft since 1995, with her last 15+ years spent at Zinc in New Haven. It took a serendipitous ankle injury to slow her down enough to put together the business plan that she had been dreaming of for so long.
We began design for The Devil’s Diet Dessert Bar at the beginning of 2020. As we were nearing completion of the documents, COVID hit. Now what? How would we adapt a place entirely intended for intimacy to function in the short term when intimacy would be unsafe?
We redefined the project as 2-phases. Alba would open a simplified version of the restaurant with the intention to implement the full design when possible. Our phase one design response was to re-structure the front-of-house operations for pandemic functioning which had the additional benefit of limiting the business’s cost exposure. Lemonade out of lemons.
Anticipating that much of the initial business would be take-out, we added a pick-up counter area with plenty of space for circulation. We also created an opening into the kitchen, allowing there to be fewer staff working at one time.
It obviously didn’t make sense to invest in building a new bar when bars weren’t even allowed to be open, and so few people could sit physically-distanced at a bar. And, the banquette seating would have an inefficient number of physically-distanced seats considering the cost investment. We are so looking forward to the days when we don’t have to worry about sitting next to someone at the bar, but today we do, so it made sense to pivot.
Beyond their functionality, the bar and banquette had been designed to contribute to the sense of character and materiality of the space. What could we do to offset the loss? Creating a large-scale painted graphic that uses color to evoke emotions – joy, pleasure, and delight – was a solution that was low cost and wouldn’t impact the efficiency of implementing the phase 2 design.
We are honored to have gone on this journey with Alba to create a place that will function well for her during the pandemic, and that can be easily transitioned into her full devilishly delicious vision when the time is right.