Not quite a speakeasy, there’s a new little craft cocktail lounge that is quietly becoming the place to sit back with bourbon in Bowling Green.
“We’re trying to do things that are a little bit more rare than the regular bar scene, a little bit more handcrafted, as far as the cocktails go, more fresh ingredients, a little more infused flavors,” Beckett’s owner George Strata said. “It provides a little bit of nostalgic value to me, as far as remembering serving people back here, behind the bar, and trying to create an atmosphere that today’s generation will enjoy.”
Strata has a long history in the Bowling Green bar scene, with the Barrel Room at Beckett’s coming full circle for him. He was a bartender at Kaufman’s restaurant, in the mid-1990s.
“I like to call it a craft cocktail lounge featuring bourbons, but we don’t have only bourbon. We have tequila, gin, vodka drinks as well,” Strata said. “We have a lot of college bars in this town, but we are trying to be a space for local adults that want to have a date-night out or visit with friends.”
The house specials are the Barrel Room Old Fashioned and a hand-mixed espresso martini. The Barrel Room claims the largest bourbon collection in Bowling Green.
“Our version of the old fashioned is hand mixed, put in barrels and poured on tapped. We do a lot of smoked old fashioneds. We have well over a hundred varieties of bourbon right now. We also have some high-end Scotches and tequilas, vodkas and gins that are not normally seen in the other bars,” he said.
Strata’s not sitting back now that it’s open. Live music began on Saturday in the Barrel Room. Small groups are expected to be playing two to three days per week, along with the occasional pop-up hours as well.
The Barrel Room claims the largest bourbon collection in Bowling Green. but Strata encourages regularly checking out their Facebook page, for extra hours. During the Black Swamp Arts Festival there were additional hours, but with the expandable back room, it is also being rented out for special events.
The Barrel Room can be entered from Beckett’s Burger Bar, or from the alley, which lends to the speakeasy feel. The retro tin-style roof, brass fittings, leather accents and wood barrel decor give it an updated feel of a cool bygone era.
The bar can also have the back sectioned off for rental use or special events.
“It can be used for small business meetings, rehearsal dinners, which we’re doing a lot of, wedding showers, baby showers, Christmas parties, all of those type of events. It’s been great and business is good,” Strata said. “We’re easily customizable. We even have a full wedding coming up.”
Strata bought Beckett’s Burger Bar on North Main Street in 2007, and then moved it to the current South Main location in June 2021. They were closed for only one week for the move. Once they were fully up and running, the planning started for the Barrel Room, which opened in May.
Beckett’s Burger Bar is in the front and has the familiar full menu. The Barrel Room has its own unique menu, featuring options like their charcuterie board, white wine mussels and their Kentucky bourbon creme brulee for dessert.
The inspiration for the space was a little bit nostalgia and providing a place that is not the stereotypical college bar scene — they also did some research.
“We did go down to the Kentucky bourbon trail, that was part of the inspiration,” Strata said.
Those first seven months, after the opening of Beckett’s, they weren’t using the back bar room very often.
“We felt like it was a very wasted space, because we weren’t using it enough,” Strata said. “We wanted to accent our business, instead of just saying this was all Beckett’s, with the same menu.”
The renovation was extensive.
The restaurants are very much a family business, with Strata there every day and his wife Amy spending much of her free time there, when she isn’t teaching for Bowling Green City Schools.
“My son is a manager, and my daughter helps out when she isn’t away at school. Family always helps out, one way or another,” Strata said.
Strata’s mom and dad, who were familiar at the previous location, are now fully retired in Florida.
“This is a place where you can enjoy some live music, meet with some friends and have a great drink,” Strata said.
The Barrel Room at Beckett’s is located at 163 S. Main St.