Former Anvil/Haven/Fitzgerald's bartender Justin Burrow confirmed rumors that he's opening a cocktail bar downtown on Main Street. Tentatively called Bad News Bar, the project is a collaboration between Burrow and Grand Prize owners Brad Moore and Ryan Rouse. If those names sound familiar, it's because Moore and Rouse are also partnering with Joshua Martinez on ramen shop Goro & Gun, which will also be located in north downtown. Burrow says the build out on the space is almost complete; he plans to open no later than mid-March.
Asked about the concept, Burrow describes a space that mixes his time at Anvil, where he focused on making drinks with good quality liquor and freshly squeezed juices, with Fitzgerald's, where he served $7 cocktails to an industry-heavy crowd on Tuesday nights. "I'm trying to make this a fun, approachable cocktail bar. No pretense about it. Just drinks. That's the attitude I've had for a long time." Unfortunately, since he's "not pushing out 80 cases of Lone Star on Christmas Eve," the days of $7 Manhattans are not going to return.
In terms of defining cocktail culture, Burrow says it's "not about ... guys wearing bowties and suspenders. It's about how good does the drink in your glass taste. It gets muddied, because I talk about my feelings and that gets turned into a bar concept."
Burrow says that he will be "behind the bar damn near all the time." That means hiring a staff with whom he's comfortable working, including Aaron Lara, who Burrow worked with at both Anvil and Haven. About the staff, Burrow says "they can create drinks or they won't be working here." In return, Burrow expects to work with his team to create the bar's cocktail menu, which is still under development.
One aspect of being an owner is that Burrow gets to design the space from the ground up. That means no more stirring drinks in pint glasses to reduce the load on the dishwasher. It also means custom garnish wells in a refrigerator so that the bartenders "don't have to worry about having unattractive shit on the bar top." It even means using dipper wells with constantly running water to keep tools clean. About the wells, Burrow says he's "not saying that's never been done before, but I've never seen it."
The biggest change from Burrow's time at Anvil will be the presence of "super-expensive high end blenders at each station." Burrow proclaims himself a "secretly a big boat drink guy. I've never told anyone that until now. It kind of takes the fun level up a bit, too."
Burrow says that, as a native Houstonian, he's excited to be opening downtown. "I've seen it go from ghost town to booty club center to deserted again .... It's hard to find the good spots in town. I'm prepared to do something about that. It's important that there's a world class bar in downtown Houston. It doesn't exist yet. I'm happy to provide that service to Houston."