Whiskey bar

Famous downtown whiskey bar reopens this week with a cool new look

One of the most famous bars in the city center has new owners who want to refresh the 13 year old establishment. Sean Fitzmaurice and Jace VanHoozer have bought Reserve 101 from founders Mike Raymond and Steve Long.

After closing its doors when the government demanded the closure of all bars, Reserve 101 will reopen to the public on Friday, June 12. Although the new owners have been operating the bar since last year, the closure has given them the opportunity to make both physical and stylistic changes to the venerable whiskey bar, which has long been acclaimed both for its vast selection and for its ability to procure rare bottles.

The new owners are both Reserve 101 veterans and close friends. VanHoozer not only worked there for 12 years, serving as general manager for many of them, he also met his wife there. Fitzmaurice has worked at the bar for the past five years. Between pouring drinks and talking to customers, the duo told CultureMap they always imagined how they would change things up if given the chance.

“We didn’t buy it for what it is. We bought it for the potential of what it can be, ”said Fitzmaurice. “All credit goes to the latest diet, but I think it has the potential to be significantly more refined without losing the rib cage of what this place is, without upsetting the people who have supported the bar for years.”

The bar’s location on the corner of Dallas and Caroline makes it a destination for those looking to grab a drink before or after events at the Toyota Center or the House of Blues. With concerts and basketball games on hold at the moment, VanHoozer and Fitzmaurice plan to focus on reconnecting with the bar regulars who are eager to come back and introduce themselves to the downtown residential population who might have. be previously neglected establishment.

Plans for a full package of renovations had to be scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Fitzmaurice and VanHoozer made a number of changes to the space, including new paint, a new bar facade and a top. of copper bar. Behind the bar staff have brand new equipment and the air conditioning has been improved. After a few months, they plan to launch “phase 2”, which will include the extension of the regular service to a lounge space that was generally only used for whiskey lessons and the transformation from a storage space to the floor into “something cool”.

Beyond the physical changes, the new owners want to bring a new attitude to the establishment. When it opened, Reserve 101 was unique. Now, many bars and restaurants (downtown and beyond) can boast their vast selection of spirits. Reserve 101 will remain one of Houston’s great whiskey bars – their selection includes 340 different varieties – but the duo also want to expand their offering with more cocktails and a larger selection of beers.

“I think in a lot of whiskey bars the mentality is that you are lucky to be here with all these different brands,” says Fitzmaurice. “Our mentality is that we have taken over this place and we are lucky to have you here.”

Whiskey fans don’t have to worry; VanHoozer can still debate the merits of various Four Roses recipes with any bourbon lover passionate enough to have an opinion on the subject. But the new owners recognize that Reserve can broaden its appeal to the ever-growing population of people still discovering what they love, especially some of the local women in whiskey clubs who have popped up in the past couple of years and the lively scene that flourished on Facebook.

“In the past, we have not focused on [enthusiasts] so much so that people see us how lucky you are to come here to try the bottle you can’t [buy at retail]”VanHoozer says.” In some parts of town we have developed a reputation where we are maybe a little higher on ourselves than we should be or a little more exclusive than we should be. to be. “

To help change that perception and improve Reserve’s cocktail offerings, the new owners hired veteran bartender Josh Alden, who brings his experience to places like Wooster’s Garden, Moving Sidewalk, and Mongoose versus Cobra. He is joined by Rachel Tate, who previously worked at Reserve.

“You can’t work here unless you’re a better bartender than me,” says Fitzmaurice. “To be clear, I think I’m a damn good bartender, but I think this place deserves someone behind the bar better than me. It is the benchmark for uniting a team.

Taken together, the changes will preserve what made Reserve 101 so successful – its vast whiskey selection and super knowledgeable staff – while expanding its appeal and making it more welcoming to people who want a shot of Jack Daniels and a cold beer. Functioning as an equally cozy bar for avocados drinking 18-year-old Scotch and Rockets fans looking for a post-game cocktail? It sounds like a path to 13 more years of success.

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