When Whole Foods announced it was installing bars in many of the chain's grocery stores, I thought the idea would never catch on. Grocery stores are for grocery shopping, bars are for boozing and the two could never happily exist under one roof. The parking alone at most grocery stores is enough to discourage drinkers.
Over the past few months, though, I've been seduced by the model and spent some time talking to the bartenders who work these small bars and the customers who drink at them. After a couple glasses of wine and numerous beers at three different locations, I have to say the idea is definitely working.
The bars at the Lemmon Avenue and Park Lane stores do significant business with the post-work crowd. Customers stop in for a quick beer on the way home for many reasons. I grab a beer because -- well they have beer, but one gentleman told me he was more comfortable grabbing a quick drink inside Whole Foods before he went home to see his family because there was less of a stigma associated with hanging out in a grocery store. He could also come home with a gallon of milk easily should a request from home arrive on his cell phone.
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While the Park Lane Whole Foods offers more beers than any other location, the Lakewood bar is by far the best place for a drink, and customers have noticed. Stop in during the week around 6:30 and you'll see more people drinking wine and beer there than the nearby Cock and Bull at the same time.
Their square bar lends itself to socialization, and there's the old adage that grocery stores are a great place to meet singles, but if you think you can pick up a date here you'll be disappointed. The single (mostly middle-aged) women I talked too across several visits love the bar specifically because they can hang out and not get hit on. These bars are filled with neighborhood locals who just want to relax with a decent beverage and chat with their neighbors before they pick up a loaf of bread.
The beer lists slant local, with Dallas based breweries featured heavily at most locations. You can get a Velvet Hammer from Peticolas, or a hoppy pale ale from the folks at Deep Ellum or a handful of other beers from around the country. If that's not enough, the Lakewood location is also promoting dinners with beer pairings. Maybe it's time to rethink your favorite Dallas watering hole.