With the announcement of the upcoming closing of Bad Dog Bar and Grill, many have been left wondering what’s the next step for the establishment near the corner of Vandeventer and Chouteau. Just recently, owners Chad Fox and Jimmy Weckmann of Rehab Bar and Grill have decided to take over the venue, and continue the bar’s success in The Grove area. Plans for the new establishment seem promising, with a new name and some novel ideas for the St. Louis scene. Weckmann spoke out about what he has planned for the bar, and new ideas he has for the LGBT scene in St. Louis as a whole.
Things are going pretty well at Rehab these days. With a big New Year’s Eve party coming up and new things brewing for the upcoming year, owners Chad Fox and Jimmy Weckmann have some new exciting things up their sleeves. “We are going to be starting to bring in some Burlesque,” Weckmann says. “We’re trying some new performers, exciting games and more charity stuff for 2015 that we are working with. We’re excited for it to take off some more.”
And it will, undoubtedly, take off- starting January 5, Weckmann, Fox and the team at Rehab will be taking over Bad Dog Bar & Grill, renaming it “Bomber’s Hideaway.” A grand opening is set for sometime in March. The name alludes to fact that it is somewhat “tucked in” behind the White Castle on the corner of Chouteau and Vandeventer.
“Here’s the thing: Rehab is a small place,” Weckmann explains. “We’re one of the smallest places of the bars out there. We’re wanting more space, more chances to grow, to do bigger things that we can’t do here. At Rehab, we have to use our patio, which is our main source of getting tons of people in. In winter months, you can’t do that. Down there, I have a warehouse that I can use full-time, year-round. It has seating, where people can sit down and watch a show. So I can have huge events there at any time at all.”A passing of the reins obviously alerts change that can be perceived in both positive and negative ways. In an outspoken community like St. Louis, the team is ready to give people something new to talk about.
“Some of the negative has come back that we just don’t understand the clientele over there,” Weckmann says. “We’ve gotten some of that. We’ve also gotten things about being greedy. It’s not about greed at all. It’s just like, if you don’t have enough space here, why not something bigger?”
But overall, the goal is to keep the regular customer base that Bad Dog has maintained, while improving on Rehab’s own clientele to push its success even farther.
“There’s not a whole lot of changes, that’s what people will be shocked of,” Weckmann says. “We’re going to introduce things like EDM- we’re going to have a spot for the EDM dance parties that we usually like to have in the summertime. We’re going to start utilizing the 3 a.m. license as well. It’s going to be where we get the DJ’s in and there’s a place to actually dance. Right now, you pretty much just have JJ’s to go dance, so we are offering an alternative of a bigger venue where they can go dance.”
One thing that Weckmann and his team do hope to change is to make the establishment a place where anyone can go and feel welcome and included. “[Bad Dog] is known for focusing on a lot of fetish,” he says. “I’m not really going in that direction. I’m not excluding, meetings and stuff like that are fine, but I’m not including the whole demonstration. I’m kind of getting away from that. I want to make it more of an ‘everybody welcome’ feel. I don’t want people walking in a being like ‘Oh, I’m not a bear’ or ‘I’m not a twink.’ Just like Rehab, I want it to be a melting pot to catch everyone.”They also plan to add more casual aspects to the bar where they have more games and activities for people who aren’t necessarily into a party scene. “Darters, for example, because we have the space,” Weckman says. “Also, the country line dancing that no one is really doing right now. We want to push for new things and are open to suggestions.”
Weckmann plans on doing the more lounge cabaret shows at Bomber’s, which don’t really work at Rehab, simply because of different clienteles. In addition, plans for Bomber’s to be a regional go-to spot for events are goals Weckmann and his team have set for the future.
“Pageants are going to be our big thing [at Bomber’s Hideaway],” Weckmann says. “We’re actively pursuing every pageant you could possibly think of, because it is a venue with huge dressing rooms, huge stage, it’s got so much potential for these pageants and we can make them one of the best deals ever. A ‘destination spot.’”
The big differences between the two bars are that Bomber’s Hideaway is going to be more of an evening spot. More focused on dance, EDM, a regular DJ, country line dancing, sport-type events, dart and pool tournaments. Bomber’s isn’t going to be open during the day.
“During the day at Rehab, you sit down and you get to know everyone,” Weckmann explains. “They want to know your name as soon as you walk in the door here. The aspects of entertainment are what’s going to be different between the two venues, but I want the same, good feeling at both places. I want to be different from other bars that don’t ask questions and just say ‘Here’s your drink.’”When it comes to the food aspect, although dining does well at Rehab, Weckmann explains that there just is not enough seating as the venue has less of a restaurant-type feel. At Bomber’s, there will be a separate dining area and a bigger kitchen to expand in. Leon Augustus Braxton Jr. will be leasing the kitchen out at Bomber’s while still managing the kitchen at Rehab.
“We can do more specials, and as we go on we may be able to open during the day,” Weckmann says. “I look at it as a great partnership that will benefit both of us. What I do in business and what Leon does in food, if it falls together it’s going to be a great place. That’s what I see.”
Concerns are still very present as The Grove continues to grow, and Weckmann looks forward with optimism while addressing potential concerns. “I’d like to see more safety around here, because even the new places, they’re all within walking distance and it’s like being in another little city,” he explains. “That’s why I never try to be number one. I want you to go out and mingle and check it out, and then say ‘I feel more comfortable’ and come back. But I’d like to see more safety to where people don’t have to worry about their cars, and getting hurt.”For the St. Louis LGBT community, Weckmann remains a supporter of his competitors and, as always, a loyal advocate for The Grove neighborhood as evolves. And with a new mixed-use development being built across the street from Rehab, the area is in store for better things and bigger business for all establishments in The Grove.
“I don’t see a lot of negativity,” Weckmann continues. “I think the bar owners get along and I try to get along with every single one, and I do. They’re very supportive of me and I’m very supportive of them. I’d like us, if we each have a function, to all support it. Just one time before I die, I’d like for all of us to come together and do this one huge event together. And all of what is made be donated to the same cause. I don’t think it will ever happen, but I think it would be nice.”
Whether it’s catering to regular visitors to the area or new-comers in the city, a cohesive and more approachable feel is the ultimate goal. The Grove itself is on the rise, and the LGBT community is only going to be better for it.
“Some people come in and say ‘Oh, St. Louis people are so rude,’ and that’s not the case,” Weckmann explains. “We’ll sit and talk with anybody, if you’ll sit and talk with us first. I think St. Louis is hugely welcoming and you can fit in anywhere. Whatever it is, you can fit in our scene.”
“If you take the time to say ‘Hi’ and talk to someone, St. Louis will talk your ear off,” Weckmann says in closing. “And we will give you the entire dish and all the dirt. That’s what I love here: we are our own kind of people, and it’s a good kind of people.” V
WRITTEN BY KEVIN SCHMIDT FOR THE VITAL VOICE