at Basement East
Roving rock ‘n’ roll philosopher Rayland Baxter’s new album, Wide Awake, is out July 13, and he’ll be at Basement East on July 18 - 19 as a hometown
Bar Sovereign is not an easy one to find. Tucked between storefronts in a nondescript strip mall a couple blocks south of Bridgestone Arena on 5th Avenue, the entrance is marked only by a small brass sign at waist level. But once you gain entrance, you’ll be overtaken by a riot of visual input.
A small vestibule is decorated like your grandfather’s library, with bookshelves stacked with yellow blocks of back issues of National Geographic and a few board games. Entering the cozy main bar area, there’s a wall of vibrant art, on loan from the Lazarides Gallery in London. From paintings of a zombie Elvis to a particularly creepy Bozo the Clown portrait, the effect is vaguely unsettling, but certainly impactful.
If scary clowns aren’t your thing, you can just sit at the bar, since that’s where the action is anyway. There’s more intimate seating arranged around banquettes and an inviting hearth as well. Bar Sovereign co-owner Gabe Fuenmayor says the eclectic interior is wholly intentional.
“We’re not looking for any particular vibe, and we don’t want to define it for anybody,” he says. “We just want to be the place where friends can gather after work or come in for a good time until late at night.”
The inventive drink menu certainly serves as a social lubricant—go for the whiskey and amaro-based B.S. There’s also a fine selection of top-shelf spirits, affordable wines, and a roster of beers ranging from low-brow to high falutin’—you’ll probably encounter folks enjoying a proper pint of Guinness, too. Fuenmayor’s business partner, Sean Hinton, is English, so there was no question that Dublin’s flagship brew would be on draft. Pouring a pint of Guinness is a ritual that requires patience and a deft hand—at Bar Sovereign you can expect the real deal.
Future plans include adding a small café to the front of the bar area to focus on small, seasonal plates. In the meantime, food options include daily specials that concentrate on Mediterranean flavors and Spanish tapas dishes.
Some nights, a DJ spins tunes from a tiny balcony to get the late-night party rolling, which guarantees close contact in the small bar space. Intimacy is also standard in the restroom, which is unisex, so don’t be surprised when you don’t see a door labeled “men” or “women.” It’s just door #1 and door #2, which fits in fine with the rest of the quirky, sociable atmosphere.
514 5th Ave. S., 615-244-3174; barsovereign.com