The downtown basement bar Sellers, which will open on Dec. 13, wants to transport visitors to an earlier era with its classy lounge look reminiscent of the 1970s — complete with $13 cocktails named after films from that decade.
Owner Michael Icenhauer, who got his start in the business with his eponymous bungalow bar Icenhauer’s on Rainey Street, wanted his second bar project to have a different vibe. He has gotten it with the 5,800 sq. ft. space at 213 W. Fourth St. in the Warehouse District. Formerly the dance club Qua (you know, the one with the shark tank underneath the floor), Sellers will have lots of lounge seating, a dance floor in the back and a large square bar in the center of the room.
But Icenhauer hadn’t quite known what the concept for Sellers would be until the designer, Michael Hsu Office of Architecture, crafted the sophisticated vision for it, stripping the place down to its original bones of exposed brick, vaulted ceilings and concrete walls for the transformation. The design firm was also responsible for the look of Icenhauer’s in 2010.
The ’70s-style touches are subtle but clear in elements like mustard yellow velvet, tambour wood paneling and brass accents, as well as in the built-in dark leather banquettes that surround the bar. Icenhauer’s one requirement for Michael Hsu, he said, was the back-lit back wall of glowing liquor bottles visible from the entrance a level above the main room.
“This bar is a little more upscale” than Icenhauer’s, Icenhauer said. “We’re kind of playing off the W and the ZaZa, the J.W. Marriott. I describe it as a hotel bar without the hotel. We’ll have a place for people to dance, but we also want it to be lounge-y and serve high-quality drinks.”
Those drinks include a list of twists on classic cocktails (shown below) that Sellers’ general manager Aaron Kolitz enjoyed naming after characters or phrases in defining films of the 1970s, like “Jaws” (That’s Some Bad Hat, Harry), “A Clockwork Orange” (Alex DeLarge) and “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (Holy Hand Grenade). Many of these cocktails, like the riff on the bright yellow Harvey Wallbanger, were popular in the decade the bar is drawing inspiration from.
Sellers — which is named after Icenhauer’s grandmother on his mom’s side — also plans to offer wine, beer and spirits, with a focus on specialty gins and whiskeys. The bar won’t have any beers on draft, however.
It’s also not opening with food, but Kolitz, most recently of downtown’s New American bistro the Bonneville, plans to one day curate a small menu of snacks like charcuterie, marinated olives and mixed nuts. He was in charge of creating Sellers’ opening cocktail list, although he wants his bar staff to take on subsequent ones.
“The way I envisioned the cocktail menu is that I wanted it to at least start out with classics,” Kolitz said. “Some of them are kind of personal — the Deeply Religious Experience is Michael’s wife’s favorite cocktail; the Guilty Pleasure is my guilty pleasure. The rest are from my examination of cocktails in the 1970s, like the Harvey Wallbanger, the Vesper, the Manhatttan, and I did a little bit of a riff on them. I brought myself into the menu, how I would want to drink them in 2016.”
Maybe in future menus, he said, the cocktails will have names that pay homage to ’70s TV shows or sports teams. Kolitz has “a wonderful mine of talent for my bar team” who will have a say in the direction the bar program ultimately chooses to go.
Also integral to the entertainment experience at Sellers, Icenhauer said, is the dance floor, which can be cordoned off for private events. The bar is going to bring in rotating guest DJs who will turn up the tunes starting at around 9 or 10 p.m. even on weekdays.
He knows that the space is located along a small strip of gay bars on the south side of West Fourth Street and that it was most recently a gay bar as well, Castro’s Warehouse. Although that’s not the concept for Sellers, he wants it to be clear that “we welcome everyone here.”
“We want to be easy like Austin is, just a little bit higher-end,” he said.
OPENING COCKTAIL MENU
- Classic Martini: Bombay Dry Gin, dry vermouth, olive
- The Perfect Italian Martini: Malfy Gin, Lillet Blanc and Rouge, gorgonzola olive
- Deeply Religious Experience: Ketel One Vodka, dry vermouth
- Guilty Pleasure: Junipero Gin, green chartreuse, maraschino, lime
- Alex DeLarge: Pisco Porton, Luxardo Triplum, apricot, lemon, egg white, bitters
- Autumn Wallbanger: Tito’s Vodka, orange juice, fall-spiced Galliano, orange bitters
- That’s Some Bad Hat, Harry: Flor de Cana 7 Year Rum, Luxardo Triplum, Lillet, lemon, bitters
- Evening Prayer: Ford’s Gin, Reyka Vodka, Cocchi Americano, vanilla essence
- Holy Hand Grenade: Knob Creek Rye, Luxardo Triplum, Lillet Blanc, Aperol, Fernet, elderflower liqueur, lemon
- Play a Mean Banjo: Elijah Craig Bourbon, Caffe del Fuego, Turkish apricot bitters, mint
- Smokey Reynolds: Jim Beam Black, Lagavulin 12 Year, Carpano Antica, cherry, bitters
- Vic’s Island Paradise: Tanqueray Gin, lemon, passionfruit, pineapple, aromatic bitters
Once Sellers opens on Dec. 13, Sellers’ hours will be 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily. For more information, visit icenhauerventures.com.