Behind the Bar: Q&A with the Owner of Kimi’s Bar in Providence

Our November cover star Kimi Rich shares how she turned her owning-a-bar dreams into reality.
Kimi Rich Kimi’s Bar, Providence

Photography by Wolf Matthewson

What is your background in bartending?

I started bartending in the Salon downtown right when it opened. Two weeks later, I started managing it, all the way up until it had to close for COVID, so eleven years. I also managed the Boombox karaoke bar from the time it opened. They were a huge part of my life. I’ve lived in Providence forever. I used to live in the Dirt Palace in Olneyville. I was a bike courier. I have always been a huge part of Providence and the bar scene in general. When I got married and started thinking about the future after bartending, everyone said that I should open my own bar, and, right before COVID hit, I started seriously looking into it. 

What did you want it to be like?

I wanted an elevated neighborhood bar, somewhere you could go to listen to music and maybe get dancy, or just come any day of the week and feel comfortable and welcome. My husband, Billy Senecal, has his own business, and this is my own business, but Billy also put a ton of insane vision and work into this bar for me. 

Kimi’s Bar, Providence

Photography by Wolf Matthewson

What didn’t you want it to be like? 

I knew I didn’t want a nightclub, and I also didn’t want a super cocktail bar. There are places you walk into where you can feel the energy, but that energy is age twenty-one. I wanted a bar where the vibe is like you’re in the right place.

What kinds of flavors are you thinking for fall?

We’ll have some cherry, honey, maple, apple, brown sugar. There are going to be some cinnamon-smoked cocktails. My concept for everything is for it to be pretty simple and fresh. We make everything in house daily, all the juices and syrups. We have fresh mint and basil growing in our box outside so bartenders bring that in.

Kimi Rich Kimi’s Bar, Providence

Photography by Wolf Matthewson

Did you have this design as your vision when you started?

The space helped give us inspiration. I wanted something that was a little industrial, a little green and earthy and kind of romantic in a magical way. It’s dark and moody, but it’s also really inviting and fresh. It reminds me of when you’re a kid and you’re camping in the woods and there’s fireflies out and it’s a perfect summer night, or a warehouse that’s taken over by nature and it’s so beautiful because it has those two clashing elements. 

What’s the plan for the cooler months? 

I want to keep that garage door open as long as possible. I’m going to get fire pits out there and we can have blankets. I’d love an apres-ski thing. Everyone can hang out and drink in the cold.

Is there anything else that you are really passionate about at the bar?

The pews and lighting are repurposed. The bar itself is a former bowling alley. The lights came out of Czechoslovakia and Ukraine. Some are from the 1940s and they are explosion-proof lights that would light up industrial tanks. We hand-burned all the wood to get it that black color. These bright green tiles are all handmade and glazed by a woman. The door in the bathroom came out of a school in Long Island that was built in 1910. We go to the Brimfield Fair every year to hunt. Sometimes it’s a win, sometimes it’s not, but it’s always fun.

 

Want even more bar talk? Our November issue has a whole feature dedicated to highlighting the state’s spirits, speakeasies and dive bars. Find the closest newsstand location here

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