|A REFUGE UNDER THE LONE STAR|
ROBERT HEUGEL - ALL PHOTOS PROVIDED BY THE AUTHOR UNLESS
Note: Hanging over the bar of the personal
encompasses approximately 55 square feet of my living room, is a much
cherished pen and ink of Humphrey Bogart. It was created by my dear
friend and a fellow contributor to this publication, ROBBIE
And for a short time during the 1980s it graced the wall behind the bar
at Rogue’s Gallery in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Today all that remains of a young man’s dream of owning his own tavern is a couple of bar stools, a plastic promotional beer barrel from Canada’s Moosehead brewery, a photo of W.C. Fields and the Bogart. That which is to follow is the account of another youthful unadulterated bartender’s adventure in entrepreneurship. Having tasted firsthand the hardships and joys attached to such endeavors, myself and the entire staff of American Public House Review wish Robert Heugel and his partners much luck and many blessings!
say that my life has changed over the last few weeks would be an
extreme understatement. The dramatic transformation of ANVIL BAR AND REFUGE from a
vacant construction site to a functioning bar has
similarly changed me from a dusty, unshaven, demolishing, drywalling,
painting, quasi-electrician to the clean, fresh juicing, firm shaking,
vodka abolitionist that thrives behind the bar. For a long time, I
didn’t feel like myself; funny how stirring a martini can change all of
ANVIL has everything I envisioned my bar having one day - a ridiculously large selection of awesome booze, an amazing staff of cocktail dorks, incredible regulars, and a great group partners. Getting to this point, however, was a long, often frustrating journey, which seemed to question one’s perseverance each day. Nevertheless, the end result is a bar that was built, designed, executed, and bartended by the same core group of individuals. This place is an expression of who we are and a passion for making cocktails and sharing our evenings with a group of friends, some familiar and some new, every night.
I thought I would begin where ANVIL began - the remodel. ANVIL BAR AND REFUGE is housed in one of Houston’s most well-known bar locations on what is Houston’s most famous and cultured street. Originally built in 1959 as a Bridgestone-Firestone store, 1424 Westheimer Rd. was transformed into the Daiquiri Factory in 1980 and into Sliders years later. We knew the bar would need a completely new face to overcome the image that the bar had garnered with three decades of machine made cocktails, and so we set out to recreate the space. We gutted everything – electrical, plumbing, drywall, whole rooms – everything. The only aspects of the remodel that we didn’t do ourselves was some of the plumbing, moving an electrical box, some metal work, and glass fabrication. Everything else we did over a 7 month renovation, plagued by a hurricane, persistent city permitting issues, and countless other derailments.
ANVIL'S interior was designed by those of us who built it. We really didn’t know what we wanted Anvil to look like when we finished, but we tried to tackle one task at a time. Designers have that unique ability to envision the completed project before it finishes. We just saw a to-do list. As we continued, we attempted to incorporate elements into the space that reflected a forgotten era when cocktails were crafted slowly with care and attention to each detail. In doing so, we found ourselves persistently integrating design elements that reflected this theme.
ANVIL BAR AND REFUGE BEFORE THE RENOVATION
ANVIL AFTER THE MIRACULOUS TRANSFORMATION
Photo courtesy of swamplot.com
A BEACON ON WESTHEIMER RD
bar's foot rail at ANVIL is a piece of old
railroad track that previously ran
through Houston. Vintage cocktail glasses scoured from Montrose thrift
shops in the neighborhood shine again with fresh cocktails. The bar top
is made from weathered steel; the shelving, abandoned outside for
years, is from a piano store Kevin and I worked at when we were kids.
Our bathroom and kitchen doors are old walk-in cooler doors from old
small-town Texas butcher shops. The walls, covered since the building
was built in 1959 are now exposed, showcasing the brick used in
buildings of that era in Houston. We built the tables out of wood
flooring. The lamps and sconces were crafted by Justin and his wife,
Brandi out of old chardonnay stomping binds. We painted all of ANVIL'S walls, we did all of the
custom woodwork, finished the floors, and
anything else you can list so we could save some cash and finally be
able to work in our own bar.
Kevin and I often say this was the craziest thing we ever did. We really didn’t know what we were getting into, but with the help of some great folks, like our three general partners, Justin Burrow, Steve Flippo, and Morgan Weber, we somehow found a way to finish our new bar. In the end, despite the entire struggle, it feels good to work in a bar that you’ve created with your friends. Nothing can beat that – not all of the inhaled drywall dust, fights over money, the time I fell of the second story mezzanine and may or may not have broke my tailbone (no time or money for a doctor’s visit), electrical wire nut blisters, graffiti, the broken record playing, “When are you guys going to open?” from every friend you encounter, thieving plumbers, disgruntled former owners, architects without watches or calendars, sleeping in the bar when a new brick wall was being built (the same night the heater broke), eating Wendy’s nearly every single day because it was close, and the goddamn smell of Home Depot. None of it can’t beat the feeling you get when you walk out the kitchen door into a space that somehow magically filled with smiling faces over night. All of that other stuff seems like so long ago.
We are proud of the amount of effort and time we put into ANVIL, and we hope that the entire experience of visiting Anvil evokes an emotion of something totally authentic. Nothing here is manufactured, least of all the cocktails.
ANVIL BAR AND REFUGE is owned and operated by a small group of cocktail freaks — Robert Heugel, Kevin Floyd, Steve Flippo, Morgan Weber, and Justin Burrow. To keep apprised of their efforts check out their personal blog, DRINK DOGMA, or TAKE A VIRTUAL TOUR OF ANVIL BAR AND REFUGE.
GORGEOUS ATTENTION TO DETAIL OUTSIDE AND IN
FRESH, DELICIOUS COCKTAILS IN STYLE. WHO COULD ASK FOR MORE?
ANVIL BAR AND REFUGE
1424 WESTHEIMER ROAD
HOUSTON, TEXAS 77006
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