Gibbes hustles with cafe

The Gibbes Museum of Art is getting ready to reopen in May with a first-floor cafe.

When the Gibbes Museum of Art reopens next month, its redesigned first floor will feature a cafe serving beer and wine.

“The first floor of the museum is admission-free, which will encourage cafe patrons to grab a glass of wine and explore the first floor of the museum and gardens,” museum publicist Hannah Nuccio notes, adding that tipplers also can peek into first-floor studios to watch artists at work.

Nuccio declined to reveal who will operate the cafe. At press time, it wasn’t clear whether the cafe would be ready to open May 28, when The Gibbes plans to welcome back the public after an 18-month closure necessitated by a $13.5 million renovation project.

But once it’s in business, in order to better serve people seeking coffee in the morning or wine after work, the cafe will keep longer hours than the museum’s exhibit galleries. According to Nuccio, the cafe will operate 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays; and 1-5 p.m. Sundays.

Food service has become an integral component of museums over the past decade. “Food is always a critical need where groups of people assemble,” a leading museum studies textbook instructs. “It is also a source of earned income.”

According to industry estimates, an institution typically receives 5 to 10 percent of restaurant sales. But it may benefit further from drawing a different set of visitors than its collection is likely to attract.

“They are certainly bringing a lot of people into the building,” the Museum of Modern Art’s director Glenn D. Lowry told The New York Times, referring to restaurants such as The Modern. Opened in 2004 by Danny Meyer, The Modern was one of the first high-end restaurants deliberately designed to enhance and extend visitors’ experiences.

For more information on the Gibbes, visit gibbesmuseum.org.