Whenever a new place opens in the footprint of an old beloved one, the rumors start to swirl long before its doors first swing open to a skeptical public. It's certainly been the case when it comes to Par, the bar where the old Hi-Pointe used to be: Back in mid-April, the site urbanstl.com saw a post from DogtownDan that speculated what "Par" stood for: "It's Par, as in Proper Attire Required. Nope, not making that up."
We never set foot inside this place when it was the Hi-Pointe. And we don't say this with pride, like the scads of New Yorkers who claim to have never visited the Statue of Liberty, thus making not seeing it even more of a cliché than the one they'd sought to avoid. The Hi-Pointe was just hipper than we were.
So we're here for the first time ever, on a weeknight. The sign outside says Par's open from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday, but the traffic rolling through the intersection of Skinker/McCausland and Clayton seems to ignore the sandwich board propped against a streetlight altogether.
Similarly, we feel a bit ignored on our barstool. Sure, we've been helped, but we're now the lone customer in here and we haven't seen an employee behind the bar for some fifteen minutes. They're all gathered around a tabletop video game. Instead of "Proper Attire Required," could it be that "Par" describes the staff as Pretty Aloof Recruits? But then, we realize we're probably not the most approachable-looking, either. For all we know, they've considered us, our magazine and cigarettes and decided to let us continue Puffing And Reading in peace. Or that we're simply a Party-Alone Reject.
Eventually we talk to the staff a bit, particularly after they ask us about the notepad we've tried to hide all night. As much as we prefer to write this column in secret, we're terrible liars. So we tell them we work for the RFT. Person's Anonymity Revealed.
Though you wouldn't necessarily know it from signage or their decor, Par has a wide selection of martinis and cocktails. And sometime around our second partini — it's a pleasing-enough, ice-cold blend of Korbel Champagne, cranberry juice and Effen Vodka — we start to take to the place. But also because they've honored a Pretty Awkward Request: We ask to borrow a bartender's cell phone to call for a lift home.
Later, we meet owner Darren Lueders, formerly of the Cheshire Inn. He confirms that Par doesn't really stand for anything. He just likes golf. He tells us that the crowd has been mostly neighborhood people — like DogtownDan, maybe, or the guy we met earlier who recalled having his first drink here as a sixteen-year-old back in the 1970s. Lueders says the upstairs isn't yet occupied, and he hasn't ruled out having live music. "I want to appeal to as broad a group as I can," he says. But only a handful of people have come through the door since we've been here. This particular word seems slow to spread.
As we head out to catch our ride home, we decide that "Par" could accurately stand for Place Awaiting Regulars. Overall, we had a good time tonight. So who knows? We might even be one of them ourselves.
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