Co-owners Justin Lavenue and Dennis Gobis have big dreams for temporary cocktail bar The Roosevelt Room and event venue The Madison. By next year, they will combine the two spaces into a massive, multi-concept drinking destination called De Rigueur. Lavenue, who previously worked at Whisler’s, Drink.Well, and was part of the opening staff of Half Step, and Gobis, formerly Drink.Well’s bar manager, want to create "a good place to hang out and have a good cocktail" in downtown Austin.
The name means "rigor" in French, or as Gobis translated, "necessary according to etiquette," which is their mantra. Once combined, the new approximately 10,000 square feet space will hold three concepts: a full-service restaurant and bar on the main floor, mezzanine cocktail lounge, and rooftop patio bar.
De Rigueur will be a bar that has mass appeal
The idea of having three concepts is so there’s something for everyone, "a bar that has mass appeal," according to Lavenue. The restaurant will serve as a place where food (American classics with French influences, as Lavenue described it) will pair well with the wines, beers, and drinks that will be available. The second floor bar will be a quieter space for drinks, beer, and wine, with some small plates matching those flavors. Guests will be able to pick drinks from cocktail books with 75 to 100 drink recipes. The shaded outdoor bar with a direct view of downtown Austin is seen as the fun place to hang out, with refreshing drinks like punches and draft cocktails.
A main component to the final bar project will be the back of house production. There will be a dedicated cocktail prep kitchen devoted to creating as many housemade ingredients as possible, including sodas, bitters, and liqueurs. No chef is attached to the project yet, and there will be late night food.
Lavenue and Gobis took inspiration from bars throughout the country. They cited Eastern Standard in Boston, Kimball House in Atlanta, Oak at Fourteenth in Boulder, and Broken Shaker in Miami as places that excited them.
Originally, they were just going to take over the lease of The Madison, but decided to acquire the vacant space next door, too. They knew they wanted to transform the businesses into De Rigueur, but didn’t want the spaces to lay dormant in the meantime. The empty room became The Roosevelt Room, an interim cocktail lounge that opened in late June. It's a way to test out ideas and train staff for the new cocktail concept.
The Roosevelt Room’s current drink menu has seven cocktails, plus the guest’s choice. The "flagship" drink is the De Rigueur, and there are other originals and takes on classics. The bar’s version of the paloma is named Lonesome Dove, as a nod to nearby neighbor Tim Love and to the history behind the namesake cocktail which was called the Brown Derby in Los Angeles.
The plan is to keep The Madison and The Roosevelt Room open until after SXSW next year, and then begin construction. De Rigueur would open sometime in 2016. The Roosevelt Room is open from Thursdays to Saturdays, 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.