Venice on Vine adapts to changing surroundings

By: Justin Worthing

Well-known Over-the-Rhine (OTR) restaurant Venice on Vine is facing new opportunities and challenges with its changing surroundings. The restaurant, which has served the same meals with little variation since 2006, is in the process of changing its menu to cater to a new population.

“We understand the market enough to make some changes for the long term,” Mark Shannon, executive director of the restaurant, said. “We must cater to the new normal.”

With all the new restaurants and developments in the area, things may get harder for Venice. Most of the new restaurants have made their home on Vine Street, and the quality of Venice’s competition is steadily growing. But Shannon wants to make it clear that Venice is committed to its location and its mission.

“There’s an interesting conversation going on here,” Shannon said, “and by being here we add a unique part to it. And although our social enterprise is changing to adapt to the area’s changes, we’re still committed to our mission.”

Venice stands out from the dozens of other bars and restaurants in OTR by more than just its age. The social enterprise is a part of Power Inspires Progress, a nonprofit committed to improving the job skills, education and resumes of its trainees. Those who apply for the program usually struggle with generational poverty, little access to quality education, a history of addiction or a court record.

Each trainee accepted into the program stays for a year, progressing from duties in the kitchen to duties as a waiter or waitress. Trainees also receive specialized tutoring ranging from development of basic reading skills to preparation for higher education. At the end of one year, employees “graduate” from the program with a stronger presence in the job market than they would otherwise have.

The nonprofit, founded by two nuns, started in 1986 and moved to OTR 20 years later. Since then, it has outgrown its small size and is presently receiving a large amount of business.

“We’re in the midst of some of our most successful years,” Shannon said. “Catering is in high demand, and we’re feeding construction workers (working on redevelopment). But eventually we’ll be marketing to the residents of the places they’re building.”

At the announcement of the menu change, Venice’s board was concerned that more complex recipes would be too difficult for new restaurant employees, but Shannon disagrees.

“It’s all a matter of breaking complex items down to simple parts,” Shannon said. “It’s broken down into something manageable.”

The restaurant is currently meeting with a consultant to make this process easier.

Venice on Vine is located at 1301 Vine St. in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. It is open from 10:00 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.