When Bobby Heugel announces he’s about to open the bar of his career, Houston cocktail lovers shiver with anticipation. After all, it’s a tall order for one of the creators of must-see destinations such as Anvil, The Pastry War and Better Luck Tomorrow.
Heugel’s ambitions are centered on Refuge, a new bar that will open in a space on the second floor of the same building as Anvil. To create Refuge, Heugel and his team walled off the second floor of the former Etro/Penny Quarter space. The result is a dimly lit (most of the lighting comes from lamps) and intimate environment that can accommodate around 50 people. This is the veteran entrepreneur’s first new project since Penny Quarter opened in 2019.
“The past two years have really made us ask ourselves what’s important to us and why we do what we do,” Heugel said in a statement. “Of course, the surest decision to emerge from this difficult era would be to open bars that are easier to operate and more profitable, but what I have missed most about being forced to operate in “survival mode” during COVID , it was the challenge to find new levels of creativity in our bars and help our customers forget the outside world with unique experiences.
“We lost that, and we’re going to celebrate being able to do it again with Refuge. This will be our best bar yet, no doubt.
The opening of Refuge means that Anvil’s official name “Anvil Bar & Refuge” will now refer to two spaces: Anvil Bar (bottom) and Refuge (top). It also means Tongue-Cut Sparrow’s day-to-day operations have been suspended for the time being, although its space remains available for private events. The formal Japanese-inspired cocktail bar moved to its current home in 2020 after the pandemic forced the closure of The Pastry War and Penny Quarter. Heugel tells CultureMap that the bar is not permanently closed, but his team has focused their attention on Refuge for now.
Thoughtful touches inspired by Heugel’s career and his travels to the world’s best bars can be found throughout the space. Drinks are served on linen coasters and poured into high-quality glassware sourced from Japan, Italy, France and the United States. Each table will be equipped with a brass ice bucket to keep its carafe of water properly chilled. A soundtrack mixing hip-hop and jazz will invigorate the atmosphere. Iconic design elements include a walnut bar, brass dishes for snacks and a giant replica of the neon sign of the one found in Havana’s Floridita bar; Heugel kept the piece for years until he created the right environment to display it, according to a statement.
More than elegant glassware, creating a successful bar requires the right team. At Refuge, it starts with veteran Anvil general manager Tommy Ho, who will also oversee the new bar. Heugel adds that he and his business partner Steve Flippo make Ho a partner in both establishments.
“Opening Refuge and taking this huge step in my hospitality career is surreal,” Ho said. a project that pursues these types of goals and becoming a partner in this type of bar makes all the difference the work so far is worth it.
Tongue-Cut Sparrow veterans Peter Jahnke and Máté Hartai will be behind the bar at the opening before heading to Galveston to watch the opening of Hotel Lucine, the ambitious new project Heugel has embarked on with its business partner at Better Luck Tomorrow and Squable, James Beard Award-winning chef Justin Yu. Head bartender Kristen Nepomuceno arrives at Squable’s Refuge, where she’s shown the kind of consistent professionalism that makes her the perfect candidate for the new role.
“Working with Kristen at Squable reminded me clearly of the people who mentored me in the past and the traits the industry lacks today,” Heugel said in a statement. “She’s energetic and friendly, sure, but she never takes a guest away or misses a moment to build a lasting relationship with someone. It’s a professional standard as much as an interpersonal standard that you just don’t see that often these days.
“Refuge inhabits a wonderfully intimate space that immediately spoke to me,” Nepomuceno said. “I am honored to have the opportunity to lead such a seasoned bar team, and I am thrilled to be part of this very ambitious opening. More than anything, I am thrilled to take on a leadership role in a company that trained so many staff in bar ownership, a goal I set myself one day,”
The Refuge’s drinks start with a back bar of 200 spirits selected by Ho. It differs from Anvil’s 200 bottles by its different varieties of Shōchū, more modern gins, “new wave amaros” and brandies. Europeans.
The drinks will be divided into three sections: Originals, Classics & Riffs and Excessive. Selections include Pantone 359, described as “a pastel green blend of coconut-washed rum and Hartai’s basil soda”, and Eastern Non-Sour, a sour Japanese whiskey made with a seven-citrus cordial. . Other options include Nepomuceno’s Hall Pass, a sparkling cocktail with French gin, lemon, chamomile, gooseberry, and champagne, and Heugel’s Greenhorn, a combination of Valley Tequila, Midori, and Suze. Heugel suggests that the “best drink on the menu” belongs to Jahnke, who created a mango Sauternes Cobbler. As the name suggests, the selections in the Excessive section will offer premium spirit-based cocktails at a price above the $16 charged for other drinks.
“Good drinks and a fun venue aren’t competing ideas, despite how often that happens in cocktail bars today,” Heugel said. “I think we proved that at Anvil years ago, and we’re going to do it again, but in a way that shows how much we’ve learned and grown as a team.
The Refuge will have a soft opening this weekend before officially opening to the public on Tuesday, May 17. From then on, it will be open from Tuesday to Saturday from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.