In October 2016, Jay Donaldson began conceptualizing his vision of a cocktail lounge frozen in time. After 3 1/2 years, his idea came to fruition as the chic prohibition-era themed lounge in South Lincoln called Rumology.
Days before Lincoln shut down due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Rumology opened its doors to the public for the first time. Throughout lockdowns and social distancing protocols, the family-owned business has managed to continue its demure ambiance paired with signature infusions and craft liqueurs.
“COVID[-19] has definitely forced us to think on our feet a little bit. It’s been a roller coaster, and I have nothing to compare it to as far as to say what would be normal,” Donaldson said. “We've had to evolve and do things differently. Originally, my idea and concept was to have this cool little cocktail lounge that's got this great vibe and atmosphere and do a lot of things, and we've kind of had to evolve in order to bring in people throughout this whole thing.”
Donaldson said Rumology possesses a classy speakeasy ambience. There are black and white photos of burlesque dancers and roaring ‘20s shenanigans hung along the walls, and there are comfortable plush chairs spread out throughout the space instead of the typical high-top barstools. A stage sits front and center and features a myriad of stand-up comedians and local singer-songwriters to add to the relaxed atmosphere.
“If you get any message out of this, we are not a sports bar, and we are not a party bar. We are a comfortable cocktail lounge,” Donaldson said. “If you're going to go on a date, this is the kind of place you want to go to just be in the company of the person you're with.”
Along with atmosphere, Rumology offers an array of innovative specialty cocktails, infused spirits, local beers and an array of Caribbean rums. According to a longtime friend of Donaldson’s, Jennifer Earle, the crux of the business is the education of the bartenders and their ability to create a good drink.
“It's one of those bars where you could go there six days a week, or it could be your first time in, and the whole staff is just so knowledgeable,” Earle said. “They don't make you feel dumb for asking questions. They want you to know what's in their drinks. They want you to be happy with what you order, and there's so much passion in what they do. You can tell that they really enjoy it.”
Along with serving signature cocktails, the staff at Rumology go to great lengths to bring in local food trucks that offer everything from classic Cajun cooking to on-the-spot crepes.
“Every Monday through Thursday, Jay brings in a different caterer there since he doesn't have his own kitchen,” Earle said. “That way you can come, you can get dinner, you can stay, enjoy some amazing cocktails, and it's kind of a really cool experience.”
Both Earle and Donaldson said they’re excited to see what the future holds for Rumology. Despite the challenges of being a small, family-owned business in the midst of a pandemic, they’ve rolled with the punches and managed to create a space Donaldson said he is proud of and happy with.
“Every night of the week there's a reason to be here, whether you want to sing karaoke, whether you want to do a trivia game or whether you want to listen to some awesome music,” Donaldson said. “I always say to come for the cocktails or come for the food, but stay for the experience.”