The brain trust behind Cameron Mitchell's aesthetically pleasing rooftop lounge

It’s no secret that good creative teams take years to gel. In the case of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, the company’s creative core has been working together for more than 20 years.

When it comes to concept creation, though, this local group flies under the radar in a town filled with artistic designers. The team that conceives CMR’s concepts includes those at the top of the food chain: Mitchell, company president David Miller and three other senior vice presidents and operating partners—Wayne Schick (planning and procurement), Brian Hinshaw (executive corporate chef over food and beverage) and Charles Kline (operations).

In recent years, the group’s creativity has been on display throughout the Short North with the creation of Harvey & Ed’s Deli, Del Mar SoCal and the popular rooftop cocktail lounge, Lincoln Social. (Editor's note: Harvey & Ed's closed Oct. 29, 2019.)

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“We’re very collaborative,” says Miller. “We travel all over the country, and you see what’s out there.” Traveling to CMR’s existing restaurants across the United States is already part of the job, so stopping in at other spaces generally fits the itinerary.

Once a new concept is developed, project management and detailing is left to Mark Knauer, of the Chicago-based hospitality design firm Knauer Inc., which has been involved since 2004.

Regarding Lincoln Social, the CMR group was approached a few years back by Columbus developers Michael Schiff and Mark Wood as they were launching a building in the 700 block of North High Street. They asked that a restaurant concept be created at sidewalk level and that a rooftop space be done on the ninth floor.

At first, says Miller, the team thought the two concepts would be under the same brand. Eventually, though, the plan changed.

“The rooftop scene was really exploding, so we jumped right into it,” he says. Stopping in at rooftop concepts in big cities such as San Francisco, New York and Chicago added to their enthusiasm. “We got really excited.”

What was originally planned in beachy white tones—Miller calls it a “Hamptons feel”—eventually evolved into darker aesthetics highlighted by Instagrammable spots such as the green wall that visitors see—and consistently photograph—at the lounge’s entrance, just off of the elevator. The wall evolved after Miller saw a similar one in Las Vegas while attending his son’s 21st birthday celebration.

A retractable roof and windows that open provide a breezy venue for viewing the city during good weather. Curved booths offer comfy seats for those who pay a food and beverage minimum charge that changes depending on the day of the week. No detail, it seems, has been overlooked. Even furry throws for the booths are part of the scene.

Another aspect requiring hyper-focus was Lincoln Social’s “cocktail program,” says Miller. Cameron Mitchell’s focus is usually on food first. “It was bar-forward and that was different,” he explains. “It’s a different economic model.”

Early on, the team knew it wanted a fire pit, and its importance will only grow as the weather turns cool. “The fire pit, its glow with the glow of the city is just spectacular,” adds Miller.