For the first time in a year, owner Justin Burrow is back on the bartending schedule at Captain Foxheart's Bad News Bar and Spirit Lodge. Burrow's return to front of the house responsibilities — he's always managed the bar's extensive inventory and finances — is part of a host of staff changes that saw the departure of general manager Brandon Ricks and fellow bartender Jeremy Olivier.
While it's always sad when familiar faces depart, Burrow insists the changes are good news for the award-winning cocktail bar.
"I think it’s good to have a fresh perspective on things. The best way to do that is wiping the slate clean, so to speak. You’ll notice the chalkboard is mostly clean, kind of an homage to what’s happening with my staff," Burrow tells CultureMap.
In place of Ricks, Olivier and Kristine Nguyen (down to one night per week), Burrow will be behind the bar Friday through Sunday. He's tapped Anvil/Boheme/Julep veteran Hal Brock and Elyse Blechman, a Houston native with extensive experience at San Antonio cocktails bars like The Brooklynite and Hot Joy, to join him in giving Bad News a new viewpoint.
"It’s been about a year since I worked a full schedule," Burrow says. "I just missed it, honestly. I miss the guest interaction. That’s why I got into bartending, to talk to people and have that social interaction."
For now, patrons will find that the bar's cocktail menu features almost exclusively Burrow's drinks, but he expects that to change as Blechman and Brock get up to speed. Of course, the bar maintains its extensive back bar that Burrow describes as "probably second only to Anvil now that they’ve expanded their back bar and doubled their inventory. I don’t know of another bar in the city that’s got as wide a selection of interesting and unique spirits."
While that means customers can find a three figure dram of Scotch on the bar's shelves, Burrow also points out that Bad News is flexible enough to serve a $6 Scotch and soda or a $5 Old Fashioned during happy hour. Having such a wide selection serves Burrow's goal of being "a neighborhood bar in the middle of downtown Houston." Yes, people who are loud or disruptive will be asked to leave — quickly — but Burrow notes that even an occasionally quick trigger helps preserve the atmosphere for everyone else in the room.
"That’s always been my goal with this place is for it to be comfortable and for people to have a good time here. Keeping people out who are trouble makers or have bad attitudes or are shit starters, whatever you want to call them, has always been about making sure that everybody else who wants to be here and be nice and have a great time can do that," Burrow says. It was never really about me. It was always about the guest experience and giving people a safe place to have a fun time."
For those who haven't been in awhile, now's a good time to climb the stairs and get reacquainted with Bad News. The new staff is ready to serve and eager to please. Just don't be an asshole.