How I Switched Neighborhood Bars

Stella and I had a night out without the kids Friday night mostly to go to the Sporting KC game*. It was at least 90 degrees that day and until the sun went down behind the stadium, sweat was rolling off me. The great thing about soccer is that it takes 2 hours, not more, not less. You pretty much know how long you're going to be there. We were on I-70 by 10 PM, too early to go home, but too late to change clothes to go somewhere like Manifesto or R Bar, that means it's neighborhood bar time.

*Livestrong Park is simply wonderful. I don't think there's a bad seat in the place, you're close to the field everywhere in the stadium and the game is fun. The bad thing is, there's simply no beer worth drinking there. Sure you can get a Guinness but that seems like a bad choice on a hot summer night. Budweiser's products are the only other brand around and my days of paying $7.50 for a Budweiser ended when I became a legal drinker. So get your drinking in in the parking lot or The Yard House across the street, because you're not going to be doing any good drinking in the park.

In my neighborhood, we've always gone to Maloney's in downtown OP. They have a great patio and Goose Island Summertime and Boulevard Tank 7 on tap. That's about the end of Maloneys' qualities; patio, good beers on tap. The crowd is usually bottled Bud Light and Coors Light 20 Something douchey smokers with loud, obnoxious laughter and club remix music filling the air. Mostly we can tune all of this out because we're really only interested in talking to each other and drinking some good beer in some cool night air.

Well, after Friday night, I think we're done with the Maloney's patio. It's not because of bad service or problems with the douchery or too much cigarette smoke, it's because Tank 7 is no longer on tap. Apparently Maloney's no longer wants the business of people who actually care what they drink. Goose Island Summertime was still on tap so I was okay, but Stella wanted a Tank 7. Sure they had it in the Li'l Smokies bottle and that served the need (it was also really fresh which says to me that they sell quite a little bit of Tank 7). But, they have 8 taps and prepare to be underwhelmed; Bud, Bud Light, Bud Select, Bud Something Else, Miller Lite, Blue Moon, Sam Adams Summer, Goose Island Summertime. Two choices on draft for a beer drinker, 3 if I'm generous (and I like Blue Moon). We were surrounded by guys in tight t-shirts drinking Macro Light in bottles. I feel like I'm repeating myself here but, here goes, having good beer on tap excludes no one, because Macro drinkers don't care if their beer comes in a glass or a bottle. Not only that but craft taps make more money.

We used to not really have any choice in outdoor bar sitting in our neighborhood, but we do now. RJ's Bob-Be-Que has a new patio and bar called Mission City Limits and the Root Cellar. In this basement bar and patio they have a good craft beer selection with a couple of Boulevards, a couple of Free States, another craft tap and PBR. See that, of 6 taps, 5 are craft and 1 a macro. While there is no Tank 7, a Free State seasonal that is relatively rare on tap in Overland Park, works for me. RJ's seems to care about serving their customers good beer. And on a side note, if I'm hungry I can actually get something tasty to eat.

I feel like other neighborhoods, especially in Overland Park, Liberty, Independence or other beer deserts, have similar choices, maybe our readers can highlight these. But, this kind of thing really drives me crazy. For any bar with over 6 tap handles, more than 50% should not be macro beers. It's just bad business. You alienate no one because macro drinkers don't care (or don't care in the way craft beer drinkers do) and you leave money on the table. Your tap handles are valuable property. You have an advantage in Kansas City as everyone is familiar with Boulevard so you can really take an easy road and tap up Boulevard Pale Ale, Wheat and something else. Boulevard Tank 7 as a super premium option shows, to me at least, that you're really trying. If you're in Missouri, a Firestone Walker Double Jack tap is available for a super premium tap or try some Goose Island Matilda, something. If you're a neighborhood bar, a super premium tap really opens up your bar to a larger group of people and makes your bar more money. You're selling a glass of beer for $6 or $7 instead of $3 or $4 and making an extra $2/glass. Train your staff to sell it a little, I'm sure the distributor would give you some table toppers or something to help sell it and you've increased your sales on that tap by 20-50% depending on how quickly you can sell it through. If you feel you're alienating the macro drinkers, run a macro special or lower your macro draft price by a quarter, you'll make up for it with your craft taps.

What you shouldn't do is push craft beer off your taps, it signals that you don't want a growing segment of the population and a larger percentage of the population who goes to bars. Maloney's lost Stella and I, not that our $20 or $30/month is going to make or break them. But, I know at least 10 couples in this neighborhood that could go to Maloney's semi-regularly, but don't because there's nothing for us there. My neighborhood is no different than any other. Maloney's loss is RJ's gain. Generic neighborhood bars across Kansas City can suddenly become a pretty good place to get a beer in that neighborhood and it doesn't cost a thing to become a pretty good place to get a beer.

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