Chris Ware can still smile. Even when the veteran bartender, who first came to our attention at Bohanan’s, is asked how long it has been since he was asked to step in to helm Paramour, the extravagant new bar atop an equally exuberant new building at 9th Street and the Museum Reach. “A year and 16 days,” he says—without batting an eye or betraying any visible angst.
Ware does go on to admit that a gestation period of such unprecedented magnitude tends to lead to rumors: that the bar would be reservations only, that there would be both a dress code and a cover…and (these are mine, not his) that the bar staff hired at the beginning had all scattered to the four winds in the interim, and that the attorney owners had pissed off the city so much that the powers that be were taking their own sweet time in granting approvals.
I can’t verify that last one, but “we didn’t lose one bartender,” says Ware. Cory, Jake, Andy, Johnny, Matt…they will all be there. Reality and the rumor mill have little in common on the other points, as well. “We will take reservations, but we aren’t reservations-only,” says Ware. “And there is no cover or dress code.” We suspect you will want to spiff up just a tad once you see the space, however, for the other thread of the rumor web is true: this will be the city’s most jaw-dropping watering hole come opening day. (Editor's Note: This may or may not be this weekend barring a few last inspections. Regardless, follow Paramour on Facebook for the latest news)
There was still furniture scattered along corridors awaiting placement on Monday night. The terraces were equipped with bar stools but not yet the outdoor lounge seating and weather-resistant carpets that would help lend a sense of scale and welcome to the expanse of paving. But it was easy at 9 p.m. to be entirely entranced by the world beyond the railings: the illuminated façade of SAMA has never looked so good or so immediate, and, in the other direction, the SA skyline actually looked like a twinkly, urban OZ. OK, exaggerating just a bit.
There are two separate bars at Paramour. The one servicing the terraces focuses on Champagne. The interior bar, dominated by a back-lit wall of honey-toned onyx, shares a tap system but will be devoted to beer and specialty cocktails. (With the exception of one, extravagant specialty drink with Johnny Walker Blue, all cocktails will be $11.) At neither of the two will the casual drinker be aware of the major reason for the delay in opening—that the building was not initially designed to accommodate an assembly (bar)-type occupancy on an upper floor. Stairs needed to be revised and enclosed, fire doors added, steel structural members elaborately lined with sprinklers … the list goes on and on. As an architect, the three firms that were ultimately involved have my entire sympathy. And my admiration.
On opening day, construction on an anticipated secondary elevator won’t have even have begun, so patrons will be encouraged to hike up to the third floor via stairs or to wend their way to a central elevator. Exterior signage is still awaiting HDRC approval. But the determined drinker will be well rewarded. A toast to Ware’s talent and tenacity (and the owners’ deep pockets and willingness to stick it all out) will be in order.