UPDATE: After a month of delays, largely stemming from a protracted TABC licensing process, the Gold Standard opened its doors at 3 p.m. (as I first reported on Twitter earlier today). Brad Hensarling says a grand opening celebration will happen soon -- "We will have really great deals for our grand opening party in a week or so," Hensarling told me this morning -- but right now, the Gold Standard folks just want ya to come by and have a drink or three. Speaking of new places to tipple, the Abbey Pub, right near the Gold Standard in the former Shamrock Pub space, is also up and running, so go forth to West Seventh and hoist a few.
Get ready for the Gold Standard.
On July 9, top shelf bartender Brad Hensarling is bringing his talents to West 7th, albeit in not quite the same fashion as can be found in the popular watering hole the Usual on the Near Southside. Hensarling, along with 7th Haven owner Jimmy Moore, are bringing a bit of grunge back to the increasingly high-toned West 7th corridor.
"We're calling it the dive bar's last stand on West 7th," Hensarling says. "It's a prime piece of bar real estate, and there are still a lot of us that enjoy cheap drink specials."
Moore reached out to Hensarling, who was kicking around the idea of opening another bar and the pair quickly landed on the idea of doing a slightly elevated take on the dive bar. Of course, Hensarling is quick to dissuade any notion that he's moving over to West 7th to open an upscale cocktail bar -- but that doesn't mean he won't offer a few twists you don't see too many other places.
"I'll be a little creative with the drinks," Hensarling says. "Instead of going in there to get a Sazerac, I'll have it on tap as shots. Instead of a Jagermeister machine, we'll have batches of cocktails already made. You get that same flavor, but it's quick. The Usual is the standard for the best we can do; this place is 'What if a dive bar knew how to make your drink better?'"
Hensarling says the details will also set the Gold Standard apart, using fresh juices and homemade simple syrups, alongside staples like Schlitz. At a sneak peek event Sunday, it was clear the room hasn't changed dramatically from its 7th Haven days -- mostly a few new fixtures, with lots of gold paint about -- and that's partly by design. Hensarling estimates the overhaul to run about $15,000, mostly for paint and cosmetic updates, and says the Gold Standard will be in business at least through October of next year, when Moore's lease on the building expires.
"A lot of this remodel has been cheap for that reason -- we don't know what's going to happen," Hensarling says. "I will say, in talks with the landlord, things have looked hopeful in allowing us to renew the lease and stay there." However, the property remains on the market for $1.75 million, although there have been few bites.
As for Moore's initially planned "food truck court," the city of Fort Worth has altered his plans. He initially wanted a variance for nine trucks, but the city rejected that proposal. The "court" will now hold just four trucks, situated around the Gold Standard's back deck, and working breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night shifts seven days a week. The Gold Standard, once it opens on July 9, will be open for lunch beginning at 11 a.m., will be smoke-free until 3 p.m. and will stay open until 2 a.m. seven days a week.
Hensarling, who's drafting an elite team of bartenders to staff the place (including folks like Scat Jazz Lounge's Blake Barker, whom Hensarling calls "some of the most iconic bartenders that we've got in this city"), has some wacky stuff planned for the Gold Standard, including a set of church bells he plans to ring at 3 p.m. daily and mounting a Styrofoam sarcophagus on one wall, and having local illusionist Ash Adams come in to train the bar stuff in basic magic tricks.
"It's everything I've ever wanted to see out of a bar," Hensarling says. "I'm really excited."