Saturday, November 12, 2016

We Finally Walk into a Bar in Colorado

The Principal's Office, Colorado Springs
After taking a week in Indiana for Mindy's mom's memorial service, we're back on track.

At my junior high school you didn’t worry about going to the principal’s office. You worried about going to the vice principal’s office, because he was the guy in charge of discipline. And he had a big wooden paddle he swung at the behinds of boys in trouble. I never faced (or more properly faced away from) the paddle, but I knew guys who did, back in the day.

On the other hand, on more than one occasion, I served time in detention.

Someone got the bright idea of using some of these dreaded phrases of educational punishment for promoting a bar in Colorado Springs. The bar we visited is called The Principal’s Office, and what might be called “Happy Hour” at other places is called Detention Hour at The Principal’s Office.

Does such marketing work? It got us.

The Principal’s Office is located in what used to be Ivywild School, an elementary school which was built in 1916 and closed in 2009. Now the building houses a community marketplace of the same name.  Bristol Brewing Company, a brewhouse and restaurant, was one of the first businesses to open in the school building. Other businesses followed, including a whiskey distillery, a thrift store, a bakery and even a church. And, of course, The Principal’s Office. Since the Bristol Brewery and The Principal’s Office are separate businesses with their own liquor licenses, there is signage in the central hallway reminding people not to bring drinks from one bar to the other. Ivywild is also a venue for community and music events.

Even the restrooms carried the school theme with something between graffiti and educational murals. You can study the walls and learn about dinosaurs, math and what exactly the five senses are. It is always good when education can be combined with “resting.”

When we got to The Principal’s Office, on Veteran’s Day, we noticed a chalkboard promoting free coffee for vets and half-price lattes and cocktails. Along with the school gimmick, this bar seems to take its coffee as seriously as its liquor.

There are a couple of bar areas in the Principal’s Office, and we sat at the smaller one with five seats (we didn’t notice the second area until after we’d sat down). Two young women sitting at the bar, Jessica and Barbara, allowed us to ask them our standard two questions (“What makes for a good bar?” and “Whether you go or not, what makes for a good church?”)

Barbara said that she thought a good bar has atmosphere and is a “relaxed and casual hangout.”  She also said she likes a bar that is “something different,” and she mentioned a place in Fort Collins called Social that has a speakeasy theme and makes many of their own mixers.

Jessica advocated for good drinks, “I like good alcohol.” She also said she likes it when a bar uses cool names that catch your attention. That day a drink named “Humble Devil” caught her attention, and the ingredients looked good, so that’s what she’d ordered.*

As for our church question, Jessica said she appreciates a church that fosters a good community and good atmosphere; a church that’s welcoming. Barbara said she sometimes goes with her family to Flatirons Community Church, a megachurch that she said has the qualities she looks for: it’s laid back and casual and yet open and honest.

Coco was behind the bar preparing simple syrups. We told her our questions and asked if she’d mind answering them. She went straight to the church question and said it wasn’t a question for her because she was an atheist.

We said we’d still like to hear her answer, so she said that a church should be united. “A good church is involved in community programs, especially for children and youth. It should keep youth occupied.” She thought churches should be doing charity work as well.

She then went on to our bar question, and she said customer service should be good. “The product should be good, but I tend to go to a place that has good customer service.” Still, Coco is interested in product. In fact, she is interested in studying to be a sommelier. She told us the advice a friend gave her about preparing for that profession “Go to the produce department of a grocery story and smell everything.” That sounded to us like good nose, and eventually taste, training.

As we sat at the bar, a woman came to the bar to ask for small plates for the birthday party group celebrating at one of the tables. While she waited, we asked her our questions.

Her name is Karen, and she said that a good bar needs “Good service, definitely. And good drinks.” For a church, she said she didn’t like megachurches. “I like small crowds where everybody knows everybody.”

There weren’t just women in The Principal’s Office, and we did eventually talk to a guy during the evening, another of the bartenders. His name is Jason, and when we asked our bar question, he said, “above all, I say hospitality and customer service. Regardless of atmosphere, hospitality goes the furthest. That’s the one thing I’d focus on.”

When we asked our church question he paused for a long time before answering. Eventually he said a church should open minded and accepting of other’s beliefs and lifestyles.

There was a shift change around then, and Maureen arrived behind the bar. She agreed to answer our questions and said that she really liked The Principal’s Office. She said it was the kind of place she would go to, even by herself, and that it was the kind of place where “you get to know [customers] really well -- some I hang out with outside of work.” She said that other bartenders come to The Principal’s Office after work, and that it’s different from anything she finds when she goes home to St. Louis.

On the other hand, she used to go to church in St. Louis but hasn’t found a church in the area, although “I did church shopping for a while” after she moved to the Colorado Springs area. She said that for her, “I think the people and the message” are important. “If people are overbearing, it’s hard to make friends.” On the other hand, she said, “If I like the people and don’t like the message, I won’t go back.” She misses The Gathering, her Methodist Church back in St. Louis.  On Sunday nights the college ministry, Bar Church, meets in a local tavern. We’re disappointed that though we’ve been through Missouri twice this year we’ve missed this.

But we’re glad we didn’t miss The Principal’s Office, a head of the class, extra credit bar.

*Mindy and I also were won over by a couple of clever names. I ordered the Teacher’s Apple, and Mindy went with the Sweeney Toddy, which was warmed and warming due to the addition of raspberry habanero bitters. We also ordered some delicious soft, warm pretzels with both mustard and cheese sauces.

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