Two talented St. Louis bartenders have teamed up for a new bar concept coming to The Grove this fall.
Tony Saputo, who was most recently beverage director of Consips (The Midwestern Meat & Drink, Start Bar, The Wheelhouse), and Meredith Barry, former beverage director of Angad Arts Hotel (and its now-shuttered Grand Tavern), first met on a bus trip to visit the Uncle Nearest whiskey distillery in Tennessee. The two kept in touch, and when Saputo began looking for investors to open a new place, Barry showed interest in coming on as a silent partner. That evolved into Barry wanting to be more involved, and the idea of the two developing a concept together was born.
"We're huge fans of each other, and it just seemed to be the way to go," Saputo says.
Their concept, Platypus, is slated to open in mid-September if everything goes according to plan, as first reported by St. Louis Magazine. It occupies the former home of The U.R.B., Urban Chestnut Brewing Co.'s experimental arm and pizza kitchen, at the corner of Manchester and Taylor avenues.
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Saputo says that if you've been to The U.R.B., you'll recognize some details – including the bar tops, which the team refinished – but the pair has worked hard to make the space their own. The bar, which features three separate shotgun-style rooms, will have dedicated spaces for lounging, gaming and listening to Saputo's curated music selection, plus a patio that can host up to 50 guests.
"I'm excited to activate each space, and keep them activated," Barry says. "There's a reason for each room, and there'll be something for everybody in there – that's the point. You can just get an affordable beer and a shot, or you can get a really great cocktail. We don't want any of the pretentiousness, you know? We just want people to be happy and like what they're drinking."
When it comes to the craft cocktails, you won't find a lengthy list at Platypus. Instead, a chalkboard will feature a rotating selection of five cocktails, and although temporary, each one will be significant, having its own name and oftentimes a backstory. Not only will the selection keep things fresh for guests, but it will help Barry and Saputo with one of their other goals: training great bartenders.
"I think that right now it's especially important to start cultivating more people in this industry and to show that this is a creative industry for people. [It's] an industry where you can make a living, and it's a great living," Barry says. "The way that Tony and I decided that that can happen is through mentorship and grabbing people that have that hospitality within them."
Saputo has been known to find people with the perfect interpersonal skills for bartending while they were working random jobs, and the pair hopes that those folks can find their way into the business.
"We want to be able to springboard these people," Saputo says. "If it's just that they make a good living until they figure out what's next for them, that's awesome. But if this is the tributary that gives them a whole new path, a different career five years down the line, that's probably the most rewarding thing."
The small, rotating menu will give new bartenders the chance to constantly learn while keeping Barry and Saputo sharp, too. "Teaching helps with my learning process as well," Barry says. "I feel like I learn while I'm teaching, and it keeps me on my toes."
Plans for the space's kitchen are incoming, but Barry and Saputo aren't ready to share details just yet. A friend is set to have free control over the food program, but stay tuned for more details. And for lovers of Barry's work with Gerard Craft's La Verita Distilleria, don't worry – Barry's spirit expertise isn't vacating the company anytime soon.
Platypus, 4501 Manchester Ave., The Grove, St. Louis, Missouri