The future of the space that housed recently shuttered downtown bar Clutch City Squire will consist of a dual concept that recalls the days when the laid-back, divey Clutch City and cocktail bar Barringer co-existed in the space. Now under the umbrella of a new ownership group called The Hospitable Viking, the downstairs portion of 410 Main will be called The Commoner and the upstairs will be called The Boulevardier.
New owner Carson Hager is a native Houstonian who achieved success as one of the founders of a software company called Cynergy. Having sold that business to KPMG, Hager tells CultureMap he's able to realize his dream of becoming involved in the hospitality industry, but that doesn't mean he's some deep-pocketed dilettante looking for a place to hang out.
"This is not a plaything for me," Hager says. "You may or may not see me hanging out in my bars. I want them to be operated well."
When he left Houston to attend college, Hager didn't ever anticipate living in the city again, but the Bayou City appeals to him in ways he didn't anticipate.
"This is not a plaything for me. You may or may not see me hanging out in my bars. I want them to be operated well."
"I love my city," Hager says. "I’m from here. I came back four years ago to a city that was completely different than what I left. I love what it’s becoming and want to be involved in what it will become."
Decor, service style and vibe will differentiate The Commoner from The Boulevardier. "Not that (they're) for two different people. They're for different moods. Downstairs is rowdy, it’s a little more fun. The upstairs is your respite. It’s a beautiful lounge," Hager says.
In terms of design, the upstairs bar will remain relatively unchanged, but most of the seating will be couches and modular seating with a few booths.
No Snotty Cocktail Attitude
Upstairs or down, Hager says he wants his concepts to be known for customer service. Too often, Hager says the term cocktail bar has been associated with a "snooty and holier than thou (attitude) you get from some bartenders."
Hager recognizes that the cocktail movement has raised people's standards for drinks at bars and restaurants across the country. In that sense, he expects his concepts to follow those standards and serve properly made drinks. On the other hand, neither The Commoner, The Boulevardier nor his future projects will conform to all of the conventions currently associated with the term.
Too often, Hager says the term cocktail bar has been associated with a "snooty and holier than thou (attitude) you get from some bartenders."
"Should you expect the standard look and feel of a cocktail bar when you walk into one of our places? No. Sometimes you’ll get it with us. Sometimes you’ll get something different," Hager says. "What I’ve noticed about myself is that I’m annoyed that I have to choose between a lounge atmosphere and a great drink.
"I don’t see any reason why you can’t have both and that’s what we’re going to do with The Commoner and The Boulevardier and everything else that we do."
Towards that end, he's recruited longtime Brasserie 19 bar manager Joe Stark to be Hospitality Viking's beverage director. Hager alludes to other familiar faces who are set to come on board closer to opening that he can't divulge since they have yet to tell their current employers they're leaving. Depending on the progress of construction at the adjacent building, The Commoner could open as soon as the end of February; The Boulevardier will follow a month or so after.
Hager isn't quite ready to divulge his plans for projects beyond the two bars at 410 Main but says he's looking at properties in EaDo and other parts of the city.
One thing is certain — he's fully committed to making a meaningful contribution to the city's bar scene. Whether Hager succeeds or not will be up to his future customers.