Meet Me at Tender Mercy

Downtown Dayton’s New Subterranean Cocktail Lounge is as Cool as They Come

“No, we’re not from here.” The principals of The Idea Collective return this answer to one of the community’s most frequently asked questions quite often. Today though, they consider themselves Daytonians four years after relocating their hospitality development firm to Downtown in 2016.

The Idea Collective’s first offering in Dayton is the 42nd concept in their national portfolio, and it shows. Tender Mercy, the subterranean cocktail lounge which celebrated its grand opening just three days before COVID-19 shut down all of Ohio’s bars and restaurants, is alive and well in Downtown’s Webster Station. While their first 6 months of operation have been anything but conventional, managing partner Chris Dimmick says they are just getting started.

“We are thrilled to plant our flag here in Dayton. The community has really embraced the way

we go about creating unique, memorable environments and experiences, and has proven that it

deserves and will support a more refined product. We’ve got a number of plans in development

that we hope will add value to the region and enhance the incredible pride that

Daytonians are renowned for. We’re just thankful to have an opportunity to be a part of it.”

At Tender Mercy, it all starts with the people.

“We are blessed to work with a team of hospitalitarians who simply love to serve our guests,

and love to share their passion for their craft and the products they create” Dimmick says. “It’s not enough to have a beautiful space and the best cocktails in town; you have to build a culture around our shared, inherent desire to please people. Hopefully, our guests can feel that throughout their experience with us.”

General Manager Sabrina Cox is the first friendly face you’ll see upon arrival, and immediately

you’ll trust you’re in good hands.

“It’s a cool little party down here, if you are hip to it, Cox says regarding the effects COVID has had on their operations. “We’ve fully embraced the current condition and keep everyone fully distanced, but we work diligently to maintain a vibe that resonates throughout, even when we’re at limited capacity. There’s a certain sense of exclusivity, especially during these restricted times. Our guests really seem to appreciate their time here; that sense of escapism

does wonders for the soul.”

Helming the bar program is Branden Fugate who, along with Sommelier Lauren Gay, brings

some considerable “big city” experience to Tender Mercy after years spent in some of the best

bars and restaurants in Los Angeles. The two Dayton natives came home to be active participants in the resurgence underway in their hometown, and are humbled by the response

from the community to date.

There is more than a little Dayton spirit stirred into Fugates menu direction, which features a

signature cocktail lineup that is batched and served from a specialized draft system. “The

cocktail program at Tender Mercy is ambitious,” he says. “Many in the beginning thought it was

overly so, but I know Dayton. I know our history of innovation and experimentation and I knew

our bar would fit right in.”

For wine enthusiasts, the ever evolving list at Tender Mercy is intended to be experiential.

“While we certainly have enjoyed pushing some boundaries, we are also very intentional about

providing something for everyone. There’s something familiar about what we do, but it is

simultaneously fresh and new,” Gay says. “It is unpretentious, approachable and full of exciting,

tasty wines.”

And that “beautiful space” Dimmick mentioned? That might be an understatement.

“We don’t call it a speakeasy, but we do get that a lot. It’s in a basement, and you descend

down subway-style stairs off the sidewalk. It’s dark and dimly lit. There’s a little chill in the

underground that we definitely embrace, and the soundtrack sets the tone for a pretty

memorable journey. We’ve heard ‘sexy’ as a descriptor more than a few times,” Dimmick


“Whenever we design environments, we aim to create a sense of discovery; it’s a big part of the

experience and the feelings we hope to conjure in our guests. We love to establish a

collection of unique areas throughout the space, so that there is comfort to be found no matter

what you’re looking for. Some areas are dense, some are plush, some are mild in temperament,

some feed off a higher energy. There’s something for everyone at Tender Mercy, you just have

to find it.”

For reservations and more information on Tender Mercy, visit or call 937-453-0007.

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