Mary Kenney mixes extravagant performances and hospitality at Rouge Cocktail Lounge, a speakeasy-inspired bar located in Old Bellevue. Her background as a dancer and choreographer gave her a unique perspective on the way to operate a business.
Kenney spent most of her early life in New York studying dance. During her time on the East Coast, she was introduced to a world of speakeasy bars focused on cocktails and live music performances. After being away from the Pacific Northwest for 10 years, Kenney returned to Bellevue to give Downtown the same experience. Alongside her husband, she built Rouge. They spent countless hours working on the space and once they finished, the pandemic hit. Kenny postponed her grand opening for more than a year. In November of 2021, she finally opened her doors to the Bellevue community, serving small French bites and a line of New Orleans-inspired cocktails.
Hear Kenney speak more about why she chose Old Bellevue, updates on her business and favorite places to be in Downtown.
Congratulations on your grand opening! How has business been?
It’s been super successful and well-received. From customers’ input, people seem to like the intimate space we provide. You won’t find televisions hanging up here. It’s a great place to reconnect with family and friends, have a drink and enjoy live music. I think this is a place that people need. We’ve slowed down in January, but I have no doubt we’ll pick up when the weather gets warmer.
Why did you combine live music with hospitality?
I’ve always been drawn to the relationship between dinner and a show. When I lived in New York, there were live performances everywhere. I’d walk down the streets, hear jazz music and it immediately piqued my interest. I love the sense of escapism from being in that type of space. Our live musicians are mostly local with a jazz or blues background. It fits well with Rouge.
What is the inspiration behind the menu?
Our menu pays homage to our favorite entertainers such as Ella Fitzgerald and Josephine Baker. We give our drinks unique names like Sunday Kind of Love and My Josephine. The dishes on the menu are a mix of New Orleans and French cuisines. Right now, we’re working on a new menu. I can’t wait for people to see it.
What do you love about working in Downtown?
I’m able to see Bellevue’s evolution from growing up here. Downtown has a combination of many things. You have the bustling city, but you also have the beautiful greenery of Downtown Park and Meydenbaur Bay. It’s becoming such a vibrant place.
Speaking of growth, where do you see Downtown Bellevue in 5 – 10 years?
I don’t see it calming down anytime soon. I think there will be more nightlife Downtown with the help of new restaurants and bars. When I travel, I notice people are aware of Bellevue and the changes happening. I see the city continuously growing.
Do you have a favorite place to dine out?
One of the best parts about working in Old Bellevue is how many Italian restaurants are around me. I love Carmine's and Cantinetta, they have a romantic and cozy feel, plus the food is spectacular.
What are your favorite places to shop?
I’m not the biggest chef, but my husband loves to cook so we head over to Whisk for our kitchen needs. I love Hedge & Vine and Fran’s too. Old Bellevue has everything you’re looking for.
Follow Rouge Cocktail Lounge on social for more menu updates!
Person Behind The Place is part of the Heart of Bellevue: our campaign to showcase local businesses while connecting you with stories of activity, creativity and recovery. Find out about our campaign and explore more of what’s happening around Downtown.
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Rouge Cocktail Lounge 10204 Main Street Bellevue, WA 98004