A bar might seem like an odd business venture to pair with a women’s boutique, but Elizabeth “Liz” Eckert is used to trying new things.

She became the new owner of Bella Boutique, 2805 W. White Oaks Dr., shortly before the pandemic led to the closure of all non-essential businesses, including her store. Unable to even schedule private shopping times, Eckert turned to social media and hosted Sunday brunches on Facebook live, then personally delivered merchandise to her customers.

Eckert was no stranger to the business, having worked at Bella Boutique since she was 18 years old, first under the original owner, Regina Santarelli, and later for Natalie Allan. When she became the owner, she focused on increasing online sales and the company’s social media presence out of necessity and said, “It’s been crazy this past year, we’ve been busier than ever.”

The previous owner had already eliminated formal dresses from the store’s inventory before Eckert took over, and with proms and other events canceled due to COVID, that turned out to be a good business decision.

“My husband had the idea of turning the back part of the store where our prom dresses used to be into a bar,” said Eckert, noting that the couple first began brainstorming about the idea shortly after buying the business a year ago. However, the concept required a zoning change as well as a liquor license. “We’ve done all the back-end things, so it’s fun to start to see everything come to life,” she said.

Construction is now underway for Bar Bella, with a planned summer opening. While the exact operating hours haven’t been determined, Eckert said she doesn’t anticipate having the bar open past 8 p.m.

“We’re going to be the bar that you go to before you go out to dinner,” she said. “We’re in a great central location near all these fabulous restaurants.”

Eckert described the concept as a “high-end cocktail lounge” and said she also hopes people will reserve the space for bridal showers, baby showers and other private events, such as charitable fundraisers.