A new tap house and bottle shop is coming to The Grove this fall – but first, a beloved concert venue is closing.
On Sat., July 9, The Demo will host its last show and close for the summer. In late September, owner Brandon Cavanagh will reopen the space as Gezellig, a tap house and bottle shop in The Grove. The news comes almost two years after the concert venue moved from its original space at 4144 Manchester Road to a larger building down the street at 4191 Manchester Road.
"I've been exploring locations for [Gezellig] over the past couple of years, and meanwhile, The Demo has been going along and going well," Cavanagh tells Feast. "I had a realization that maybe the best spot for Gezellig was where The Demo is.
"Over the past few years [The Grove] has been on quite a trajectory and it doesn't seem to be slowing down; if anything, it seems to be picking up. I'm excited to see what's in store with more and more daytime retail places moving into the neighborhood, and I think this is a very complementary business to go along with that, and it's something I've wanted to do for a very long time."
Cavanagh says customers can expect at least 30 brews from around the world on tap at Gezellig, as well as a vast assortment of chilled retail beer options, including those from local breweries like 4 Hands Brewing Co., Perennial Artisan Ales and neighboring Urban Chestnut Brewing Co. The focus on draft and with packaged retail will be single bottles and large-format specialty beers. Gezellig will exclusively stock chilled beers, with 12 coolers furnished around the space.
"While most of the focus will be on single bottles and large-format, there will be 6-packs and 4-packs of local breweries to go," Cavanagh says. "We'll have a Mix-of-Six program, as well, but if somebody wants to come in and grab a 4-pack of [4 Hands Brewing Co.'s] City Wide, they can grab that and be in and out in a couple of minutes. That's really a driving feature of the concept, is for people to be able to drop in after work, grab some beers to take home for dinner and get out within five minutes, or, conversely, stay the entire night."
In addition to local brews, Cavanagh plans to offer beer from popular craft breweries across the country, such as Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, as well as beers from international favorites like Cantillon Brewery, Mikkeller and Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen.
"The focus is going to be on trying to bring less common things to the general public here, to have a great selection of things you can't otherwise find here on a regular basis," Cavanagh says. "A big part of our program is going to be a focus on Belgian beers."
The shop's name refers to a Dutch term that describes pleasant and friendly company, a cozy atmosphere or positive and convivial feeling about one's surroundings. Cavanagh first learned of the phrase while traveling in Amsterdam, and hopes to bring a bit of that same beer culture to St. Louis with Gezellig.
"In a broad sense, the goal is to provide the ultimate craft beer experience in the St. Louis area to connoisseurs, initiates and everybody else in a setting that captures that conviviality," Cavanagh says. "Beyond that, I'd like to be able to provide education opportunities as well as beer dinners, all kinds of things, to really engage and elevate the beer culture in St. Louis and really try to unify it, as well."
Cavanagh is currently studying to become a certified cicerone, with plans to take the test in late August or early September. He says the staff at Gezellig will be highly educated about craft beer, with a minimum cicerone certification of Certified Beer Server.
Details haven't yet been finalized, but Cavanagh says the shop will have a complementary food component, as well, and will host special events and beer releases. On Saturday mornings, the tap house will host viewing parties for premier league soccer games and international soccer matches – after all, what goes better with soccer than lots and lots of beer?
When Gezellig opens this fall, Cavanagh says customers will barely recognize it as The Demo; the entire space will be gutted and remodeled, and custom furniture will be made by St. Louis-based Narrative Furniture. (He first saw the company's work at Sump Coffee, where its team recently installed a new live-edge waterfall bar.)
"Everything is going to be coming out – the stage, even the current bar; we're going to be moving the bar," Cavanagh says. "The idea is to brighten and warm up the space. There are floor-to-ceiling windows in the front, but you would never know it inside The Demo, because it's always so dark, there is dark paint on the walls, there are curtains. But really, when I first leased the space and it was just a big open footprint, it had a really bright and warm feeling."
In addition to the interior rehab, Cavanagh also hopes to add a sidewalk patio in front of the building, with plans to potentially add a garage door to connect the two spaces.
To build Gezellig's branding and social media presence, Cavanagh has enlisted the help of newly established Concentrate Co., the creative agency run by Treehouse Networkshop founder Wesley Hoffman and Corey Smale, owner of Good Fortune, opening in the Central West End this fall. Concentrate Co. also represents brewer Andy Hille's new Rockwell Beer Co., which hosted its first public tasting event at The Demo on May 5. (The event also marked the first show for Why Not, Smale and Hoffman's band.)
"Brandon is a lover of all beers – he loves music, but he loves beer even more," Smale says. "He's friends with Andy [Hille] and most of the dudes in the beer scene, and he knows a lot about beer. He appreciates the education behind it, so I think customers can not just go [to Gezellig] for beer, but to learn more about craft beer, as well."
As part of the process of closing The Demo, Cavanagh bought out former partner Mike Cracchiolo, who also owns The Ready Room in The Grove as well as The Firebird in Midtown. Cracchiolo recently accepted a position with St. Louis-based TalentPlus Entertainment as the director of its entertainment division, and though he still manages in-house talent buying for both The Ready Room and The Firebird, he says he's less focused on day-to-day operations at the venues. (Select shows previously scheduled at The Demo for July and August will be moved to The Firebird.)
"I'm really excited for Brandon to be able to pursue this concept, which I know he's been thinking about for a long time," Cracchiolo says "And I think it will be nice, as well, to know Brandon just as a friend or as a neighbor since we've always been in business together. I think it will be nice to maintain that friendship without the grind of operating a business."
The Demo's final show and celebration on Sat., July 9 will include live music – Cavanagh hopes to line up eight to 10 local bands who have played at the venue over the years – plus beer and food to tie in some of the themes of Gezellig. A special tapping and bottle share will celebrate the launch at 3pm, followed by live music starting at 6pm. Cavanagh says the evening will start with a DJ set, followed by sets from Zach Attack, The Maness Brothers, Bastard and the Crows, Brother Lee and the Leather Jackals, Rover, Blackwater '64, The Wilderness, Yowie, Everything Went Black and "a surprise headliner to be announced at a later date." DJ Mahf will close out the night with tunes and a toast to The Demo.
"We are really looking forward to it, and we want everybody who's ever had a great time at The Demo to come out, so we're going to make it free," Cavanagh says of the event.
Reflecting on The Demo's past few years and the many local and national shows it has hosted, Cracchiolo says he's looking forward to celebrating with the venue's loyal group of fans at the final show.
"I think it's a great room and I know a lot of people really loved playing it, and that makes me sad, but the thing you have to understand about concert venues is that it's a really, really difficult business, and they don't stay around forever," Cracchiolo says. "That's kind of what makes them special to begin with – there's an impermanence. It's really about what it means to other people; it's a vicarious pleasure for me as a show promoter."
Not including the final sendoff, three shows are scheduled for late June and early July at The Demo: Con Brio with Hazard to Ya Booty on Thu., June 30; The Driftaways with Guerrilla Theory and the Mammoth Cannon on Thu., July 7; and Pity Sex with PWR BTTM, Petal and High Waisted on Fri., July 8. Cavanagh plans to get the building's remodel underway immediately following the final show.
"It's been a privilege to run [The Demo] over the past two years and, being able to be a part of that phase of St. Louis' music scene, and particularly the local music scene," Cavanagh says. "It's been really exciting and I'm very sad to bring it to an end, but it seemed like this was the time, and we'd rather go out on a high note."
Follow @gezelligstl on Twitter for updates, including the date of its grand opening.
The Demo, 4191 Manchester Road, The Grove, St. Louis, Missouri, 314.833.5532, thedemostl.com