Meredith Barry is excited to celebrate Pride without excess.
Local bar Platypus (4501 Manchester Avenue, 314-448-1622)
has been around less than a year, but it has already established itself as a vibrant and inclusive space within the Grove. It is no surprise, then, that its Platypus Pride Bash, which happens today from 4 p.m. until 1 a.m., is set to feature a vast array of dynamic entertainment, including face and body painting, live music, a magic show, a drag and performance art show, and fire arts. If that wasn’t enough, organizers Meredith Barry and Laura Coppinger are topping it all off with a dance party with St. Louis DJ Rico Steez.
The one thing Platypus won’t be promoting Thursday night: alcohol.
Platypus Pride Bash, also advertised as “Proof Down, Pride Up,” embraces a wider movement within the national cocktail scene to normalize non-alcoholic spirits — one that has decidedly taken off in St. Louis. Barry, a longtime bartender who previously worked under acclaimed chef Gerard Craft before opening Platypus with her fellow bartender, Tony Saputo, is an enthusiastic supporter of the movement.
“People shouldn't be missing out on the experience of going out, and missing out on flavor, just because they don't like to drink,” Barry says.
As someone who used to be in the “world of excess,” Barry understands the excitement that comes from raising a glass with friends and the alienation that can arise if you don’t. However, as she got older she came to recognize the physical and mental tolls regular alcohol consumption were taking on her. Since then, she’s largely transitioned to zero- and low-proof spirits, often starting out with higher-proof drinks at the beginning of a night out and lowering the proof in increments so she doesn’t feel “completely obliterated” by the time the night is over.
“I have an option to give myself balance, but still feel satiated,” she says.
For Barry, a gay woman who sometimes feels non-binary as well, bars have always felt like safe spaces.
“Even if I wasn't drinking, just hanging out there and being amongst people that were like me — because I had never experienced that before — it felt safe,” Barry says.
However, the elation of at last discovering a safe space often became an impetus to imbibe heavily — they were bars, after all. With their Proof Down, Pride Up Event, Barry and her partners are hoping to change that.
“Bars, at the end of the day, are community driven,” Barry says. “To be able to provide a space where you feel safe enough where you don't have to go to that level of excess is also really important.”
To achieve that goal, Platypus is partnering with BARE Zero Proof Spirits, a St. Louis-based distillery that specializes in non-alcoholic spirits crafted by professional bartenders. Like Barry and her colleagues, Bare’s team aims to offer an alternative to alcohol without sacrificing the experience of drinking it.
For Mike Fricker, a partner in Bare, the non-alcoholic movement represents the “next wave of inclusivity” in the bar scene. Like Barry, Fricker feels this aspect of zero-proof drinking is particularly poignant in relation to Pride.
“It's the next way of greeting guests where they are and [with] what they're looking for,” Fricker says of the movement. “With this event, it was kind of the same idea of inclusivity and, ‘let's be proud of who we are and the decisions that we make and the way we choose to live our lives.’”
Barry echoes Fricker's sentiment.
“We just want to offer more options for people so they don’t feel like they’re just put into one little box,” Barry says. “I think that’s what pride is about too.”