OKRA, the Organized Kollaboration on Restaurant Affairs, announced today that their Original Charity Saloon would begin its soft-opening tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. The restaurant will be open this weekend, closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, then move forward with its regular service. The bar will contribute all profits to a different local charity each month; patrons will vote with tokens their receive when they purchase drinks. OKRA is accepting applications for the first four charities now.
Changes to the space have been minimal. There's new furniture, a new bar top and a bottle rack at the bar's far end. According to Grand Prize co-owner Ryan Rouse, the space required very little in the form of renovation or repair to come up to code. Even the speakers along the walls are from the previous occupant, The Red Cat Jazz Cafe. There will be some additional changes, including patio furniture and an exterior sign.
Mike Criss has made the jump from Anvil to assume the role of general manager. He tells Eater that, "For me, it was a chance to give back. It's pretty awesome working with all these people." In addition to Anvil co-owner Bobby Heugel and Rouse, the collaborators include Grand Prize co-owner Brad Moore and Poison Girl owners Scott Repass and Dawn Callaway.
The bar will have a standard cocktail menu with classics like the Negroni; in keeping with Anvil's practices, all the drinks will be made with fresh-squeezed juices, although it won't feature drinks as complex as those found at Anvil. The bar will open with four beers on tap and 10 in bottles, and Hay Merchant co-owner Kevin Floyd is helping to guide the bar's selections.
Criss says the bar's employees will be a mix of familiar faces from the contributor's establishments as well as some fresh faces. Similarly, he expect the bar's atmosphere to be its own. With both a shuffleboard table and a pool table, it's a decidedly more casual spot than Anvil.
When asked about whether he thinks the Saloon is the start of a downtown revitalization effort, Criss says "I think it is. I'm from LA. A friend of mine owned some blocks down there. Downtown was dead. No one really wanted to touch it. Then they built the Staples Center, and it evolved. I talked to Bobby about it. It's the same feeling."
· The Original OKRA Charity Saloon [Official Site]
· All Coverage of The Original OKRA Charity Saloon on Eater Houston [-EHOU-]