Over the last year, the 300 block of Main Street has become Texas' best destination for new bars, but the city's scene shows no signs of slowing down. For those who are bored with Bad News or think The Pastry War is already played out, a new, hidden bar has opened quietly above Clutch City Squire.
Not that they think there's anything wrong with what's already opened. "This downtown scene is really cool," Robby tells CultureMap. "We all know each other from bartending or working other places . . . We all talk about each other and send people to each other."
"We’re trying to be a little more upscale. We’ll have some entertainment on Friday and Saturday night, because I think that’s something that hasn’t come back yet."
At Barringer, the Cooks hope to bring an upscale lounge atmosphere with live entertainment to distinguish the new bar from the nearby cocktail bars and the more casual industry bar it sits above. "We’re trying to be a little more upscale," Robby explains. "We’ll have some entertainment on Friday and Saturday night, because I think that’s something that hasn’t come back yet."
Robby has also reached out to a long-time friend, local blues player the Mighty Orq, to play during happy hour on Friday. Pop-up Bourbon & Bacon will also appear twice a month on Fridays to bring in people who want food with their drinks.
Chieko has even bigger plans. She's a trained aerialist who sees the opportunity to revive one of the space's signature features from its Club 410 days. "This place a long time ago used to have a swing from the bar . . . We’re going to actually make sure that the reinforcements are good, because that was 10 years ago. I own a trapeze and a lira. I want to bring that in with the DJ, but that’s a little bit later on down the line."
The Cooks think Barringer's symbiotic relationship with Clutch City will be good for both bars. They've made sure that Barringer stocks different liquor and has a different cocktail menu than its neighbor. "We just want to make sure that we complement them," Chieko explains. "Why go upstairs and get the exact same shot, when downstairs it’s $3 cheaper . . . Otherwise, everyone will come upstairs and say ‘This place is pretty,’ then go downstairs to spend money."
The space certainly is pretty thanks to the work the Cooks put in over five weeks to redecorate. They built new bar tops and shelves, added "strategic lighting" for the stage and decorated with pictures of Houston from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Robby explains that he wanted to pay tribute to the building's alleged history as a brothel with a secret door to the former bank next door.
Barringer's lack of a sign also pays tribute to that history, although neither Cook wants to use the word "speakeasy" to describe it.
"I think the space and the way we’re situated definitely lends itself to a speakeasy style place, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it a speakeasy," Robby says. For Chieko, it's more important to let other people define what Barringer is than focus on any specific term.
"I believe that a lot of other people will call it a speakeasy and I will agree with that," she says.
Barringer Bar is located at 410 Main Street, upstairs from Clutch City Squire. Hours are: Tuesdays to Fridays 5 p.m. to 12 a.m.; Saturdays 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.