Barringer Bar & Lounge is back—a reopening that owners Robby and Chieko Cook call a blessing in disguise. After nearly eight months of being shut down due to a lease dispute, the husband-and-wife duo is ready to bring life to the downtown historic area where the drinkery now lives.
The speakeasy first opened in February 2014 in a space above neighboring dive bar Clutch City Squire, from whom who they were sub-leasing the space. In August of the same year, the couple found themselves locked out of the bar and were forced to close for good. Clutch City closed not long after.
Barringer Bar & Lounge
108 Main St.
Despite battling an ongoing lawsuit over the lease termination, the Cooks were determined to continue pursuing their dream. Chieko says the support of friends in the industry helped push them to reopen. Within three months, she and Robby found a new spot a few blocks away from their original location.
“This building is going to lead us to do bigger things than ever before,” Robby says, as Chieko chimes in: “Everything really does happen for a reason.”
But becoming leaseholders was just one of several tasks that came with reopening. They were fortunate their new space already had a built-in bar, so they spent only two months remodeling. The hardest and longest obstacle to overcome was obtaining a TABC license.
This past April they quietly celebrated with a soft opening, almost eight months after closing. Barringer Bar, now on 108 Main St. in the Brewster Building, has retained a similar vibe from before by using some of the same furniture and decor. But this time around, the team is adding a little twist. Instead of keeping the speakeasy-style, they are following a more historic theme because of its new location.
“Houston, I feel, sometimes lacks some of its history. We want our bar to be very distinct…that highlights some of the cool pasts of downtown,” says Robby and Chieko, who are both natives of the city.
The bar is housed in the former 140-year-old Houston Dry Goods & Notions building and has an antiquated feel with its exposed brick walls and steel beams. It is also occupied with reclaimed wood, antique glass and recycled steel.
Customers can enjoy an easy-to-follow menu of beer, wine, classic cocktails and specialty drinks concocted by Robby and Chieko who are veteran bartenders. Barringer will also offer specials throughout the week such as whiskey Wednesdays, a Thursday pop-up food series and the typical happy hour discounts. There will even be performances by aerialists (they hang from the ceiling by the front window of the bar) and live music on the weekends.
The Cooks recommend two of the bar's signature drinks for newcomers: the Barringer and the Fluffer. The Barringer is a combination of whiskey, simple syrup, lemon juice and dry curaçao. The Fluffer, a more delicate cocktail, is mixed with vodka, champagne, St. Germain (an elderflower liqueur), lemon juice and Peychaud's bitters.
The couple is most excited for the renovation of the bar’s second floor, which will be available for private parties in the fall—a feature that they never imaged before. “It’s like expanding your house,” says Chieko. “We can do different things now.”
Although Barringer has a lot to offer, it’s hidden in a pocket of downtown Houston with no other bars or clubs on the block. The only signal that lets passer-byers know life exists inside the building is the music and “108” that’s printed on the front door’s awning. So why did Robby and Chieko pick the ghost block?
“There’s a lot of residential being built down here. I feel like we’re on the upslope of a, hopefully, long-term upswing of downtown Houston,” Robby says, as Chieko makes sure to knock on a wooden wall-mounted table nearby.
Though they’re in a dead-for-now area, the duo has been fortunate to find curious stragglers lingering outside their doors, but they want to grow organically. Their current plan is to attract old and new customers through word-of-mouth.
But for now, their main goal is simply to be better than before. “I would love for us to be the type of bar where when you go to Houston you need to go here,” says Robby.