OKRA, an Organized Kollaboration on Restaurant Affairs, which is the group that formed last year to fight the City of Houston's proposed changes to the parking ordinance and advocate for small restaurant owners in general, announced plans to open a new bar near Market Square at 924 Congress St. OKRA expects the as-yet-unnamed bar to open in four months and contribute all proceeds to charity. As creating such a bar has been one of OKRA's goals since it was founded back in November, the move represents the fulfillment of a promise that had been delayed while OKRA's various members opened some of Houston's most high profile new restaurants including Oxheart, Underbelly, Hay Merchant and the upcoming Pass and Provisions.
Turning to the space itself, OKRA's press release notes that the building was built in the 1880's and housed the Casino Saloon from 1882 until Prohibition. Inside, the bar is defined by a large, oval shaped bar, gas light fixtures and a high glass ceiling. Eater contacted OKRA head Bobby Heugel, who said that at a meeting tomorrow the membership will divide up the renovation tasks and determine who's responsible for which part of the project. "We can remodel the entire space in a month. It's the liquor license that may take up to four months."
While OKRA is looking for interested parties to donate money to the project, they are also applying for grants from the Houston Downtown Alliance. "Based on how much money we get, that will determine how much money we need (from donations)," Heugel said.
The OKRA bar is another rebuke to those who speculated that the closings of ERA and Convey Sushi indicated that downtown's restaurant scene was dying. Along with this bar, the Hotel Icon recently completed an extensive renovation, Oxheart is thriving in the Warehouse District and Barnaby's is coming to Market Square.
Finally, for those wondering whether this bar is the oft-rumored project for Anvil manager Alba Huerta, she confirms to Eater that is a separate project with details to come.
· 5 Facts About the Newly Formed Non-Profit Hospitality Organization Known as OKRA [-EHOU-]
· OKRA-Run Charity Bar to Open Downtown [Eating Our Words]
· A damn good drink: New OKRA charity bar finds a home in a historic downtown building [CultureMap]
· Why is downtown dying? Restaurants keep shuttering as Super Bowl revitalization goes bad [CultureMap]