This St. Louis Bar Charges By The Hour, Not By The Drink | St. Louis Public Radio

This St. Louis Bar Charges By The Hour, Not By The Drink

Oct 11, 2019

An open bar at an affordable price in a hip area offering quality drinks and an accommodating atmosphere might seem like too much to ask for. But a St. Louis official says he’s offering just that. 

Butler has drawn upon his party organizing skills from his college days to found Open Concept — a Cherokee Street bar where patrons pay $10 an hour for access to batched cocktails, draft beer and wine. The St. Louis recorder of deeds promises there’s no catch — no skimping on alcohol or cups filled to the rim with ice.

“We haven’t had any problems at all,” Butler told St. Louis on the Air host Sarah Fenske. “Ninety-five percent of our customers govern themselves accordingly. Our price point is right to where if you get one drink anywhere else, including at the baseball game, you’re covered with us.”

Not everyone is on board with the idea.

“I think from a mental health perspective and dealing with how you want to present drinking – especially we have a lot of college students in our area and even for adults – the concept of drinking responsibly is around drinking not more than a certain amount in an evening and not more than a measured drink in one hour,” said Maria, a caller to the live program. “When we’re teaching young people and even anyone of any age how to drink responsibility, I think this is not a good idea at all.”

Patrons of Open Concept stand outside the new Cherokee Street bar.
Credit Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

Butler said he understands that criticism and noted that the bar and its bartenders have a legal responsibility to ensure patrons don’t overconsume.

“It’s not for folks who may consider themselves alcoholics,” Butler said. “We’re going to make sure those folks are not served or are stopped. I don’t imagine our bar is going to be the place that’s going to be teaching folks how to drink.”

How does it work?

Butler said other St. Louis establishments have open bars but don’t do it the way his bar – Open Concept – does.

“When you come to our bar, unlike going to the bar and buying a drink, you check in at the front,” Butler said. “All we take down is your name and phone number, and we’ll send you a text message to let you know that your time has begun. Then you give your name at the bar each time you get a drink – you can only get one drink at a time.

“At the end of your hour or two hours, we’ll send you a text to let you know that your time is up,” he said.

Open Concept provides an open bar to its patrons at a $10 per hour rate or $20 per hour for premium drinks.
Credit Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

To the 5% of patrons who might not govern themselves accordingly, Butler said the bartenders serve those people Pedialyte, a drink that’s marketed as one that “helps prevent dehydration and replace nutrients and electrolytes lost through vomiting and diarrhea in adults, children & infants.”

Butler also has a goal of bringing people in a divided community together — bridging divides of race, class, sexual orientation and gender identity. He said this “middle space” on Cherokee Street is the perfect place for that.

“There are certain things everyone comes together on,” Butler said. “That’s sports, music and drinking. We wanted to make sure that we created a bar where everyone was welcome.”

Open Concept opened last Friday after several weekends of a soft opening.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan, and Tonina Saputo. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.

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