The family behind Big Air Trampoline Park has quietly opened a self-pour beer and wine bar/lounge called Free Will Craft & Vine in NoDa next to Divine Barrel.
Owners Joel Cox and his uncle, Jon Cox, began construction on the 4,500-square-foot space a few months ago. Free Will has 60 taps, 40-50 of which are dedicated to local and national craft beer, Joel Cox tells the Agenda. The other non-beer taps have wine, cider and Prosecco. Free Will will eventually sell a few non-alcoholic options like kombucha.
Cox describes Free Will as an “active lounge,” or a mix between a sports bar and a lounge. It has a little something for everyone, Cox says — plush sofas for lounging, board games, shuffle board, a corner stage for bands and trivia, a 14-foot multi-sport virtual simulator and eight flat-screen TVs for game-watching.
Free Will’s name was inspired by the range of activities and drink options it has, Cox says. “It’s synonymous with choices. Lots of choices.”
The space: Before the squat brick building at 3701 N. Davidson St. was home to Divine Barrel and Free Will, it was the practice court for Charlotte Roller Girls, the women’s roller derby league that was renamed Charlotte Roller Derby last year. You can still notice the team’s old purple track on the floor of Free Will’s back room.
The Free Will space has undergone a major upfit that Cox says gives it an “industrial chic” vibe. Its long self-serve tap wall, for instance, is made of reclaimed wood from Cope and Stick, the local vintage lumber supplier behind projects like the wooden exterior of Leroy Fox in Cotswold. Local artist Darion Fleming added a giant white bird mural to the bar’s teal exterior.
Free Will doesn’t a kitchen, but it has the plumbing and wiring required for one in case Cox and his uncle decide to open one eventually, he says. The bar’s patio is 1,500 square feet and has outdoor seating as well as games like corn hole.
The sports: Perhaps the most prominent sports feature in the bar will be its 14-foot virtual multi-sport simulator on its back wall. It’s basically like a big TV screen that lets you play sports like golf, hockey and football virtually like you would with a Wii. It can also be turned into a TV if there’s a big game on, Cox says.
“We’re not going to advertise that we’re a sports bar because we’re not. But when big games are on and people want to watch them, we’ll put them on.”
The booze: Customers buy wristbands at the entrance of Free Will when they walk in, just like Pour, Hoppin’ and other self-serve taprooms. The bar has a rotating selection of local and national craft beer, along with non-beer drinks like wine. The drinks can be easily switched out and updated, depending on customer preferences, Cox says.
“We really like the concept of not having to wait in line,” Cox says. “No matter how busy you are, you’re not going to have 60 people trying to get a beer at once.”
Cox, who opened the popular Big Air Trampoline Park with his uncle two years ago, is hosting a grand opening for Free Will this Saturday. It’ll feature giveaways of Free Will swag and other merchandise.
Hours: 3-10 p.m. on weekdays and 3 p.m. to midnight on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.