In 2008, the bourbon boom was just beginning in Louisville. You could still find all three types of W.L. Weller on store shelves — even the 12 — but you could not find a bourbon experience anywhere near downtown. Cocktails in the city typically consisted of a spirit and a mixer.
There are exceptions to that generalization, of course, with a nod to places like Proof on Main, Jack’s/Equus and the bars at the Seelbach and Brown hotels, but consumers weren’t privy to bitters, house-made tonics and infusions as they are now.
732 Social, which opened that year as part of the Green Building in NuLu, helped educate and elevate drinkers’ standards, and now just about every cocktail bar has a knowledgeable staff that can whip up a delicious Old Fashioned or Manhattan in the matter of minutes without flipping through a book.
Larry Rice, now owner of The Silver Dollar and The Pearl, and Jared Schubert, who runs Barhaus Consulting, served as 732’s beverage directors, and they’ve decided to reopen 732 for one night only — in its same location, which is now Galaxie — on Thursday, Nov. 9.
Many members of the staff will return as well and take shifts throughout the night.
Rice tells Insider the idea to resurrect the bar came while he and Schubert were hanging out on his porch, recalling memories of the talented staff that made 732 such a success.
“The crew involved has gone onto do a lot of interesting things in the industry,” says Rice. “We’ve all gone our own way but increasingly find ourselves working together again in some aspect on various events. The idea is to celebrate where we all were then and where we ended up.”
Back before 732 opened, Rice and Schubert, who were roommates at the time, were both working at the Ton Brothers’ now-defunct Basa when they were offered the opportunity to develop the bar program for the Tons’ latest concept, 732 Social. That led to a crash course in mixology, says Rice, and they studied the trends of cocktail bars around the country.
“We’d work our shifts at Basa, come home and study all night, wake up in the morning and do the same,” he says. “To be honest, we weren’t sure how (732) would be received.”
732 Social was an instant success in NuLu, and it was fairly packed every weekend night. So what happened that led to its closing in 2011? Rice doesn’t want to dive too far into the past, but he says a few bad apples created a hostile work environment, “and eventually we all started going our own way.”
But he doesn’t regret a minute of it, he says, and his experience helped him with his future endeavors.
“I personally learned a lot from my time there — both what to do and what not to do,” says Rice. “I do believe without the internal drama and politics, 732 could very well still be opened and packed today. I was proud of what we were doing as far as the guest experience.”
732 Social fuels the bourbon boom
Local bourbon expert and author Fred Minnick tells Insider that 732 “taught Louisville how to enjoy bourbon all over again.”
Rice says it was the first bar of its kind in Louisville, so it helped pave the way for the cocktail culture we currently enjoy. Mixology and craft cocktails were on the rise back then, so he believes if they hadn’t taken the risk, someone else would have eventually. The Silver Dollar, he says, is a direct result of his time managing 732.
Schubert tells Insider that while other establishments were making really great cocktails, 732 took cocktail crafting to the next level.
“We took it one giant step further and created some resources that weren’t available, like the ice, bitters and what not,” says Schubert. “Hell, we even negotiated bringing in product to our market that we might not have seen otherwise.”
He says bartenders learning the craft would often make the trek to 732 to witness, learn and get close to the bourbon mystique that was starting to spread throughout the country — and world.
“I remember a night when about 15 bartenders from London came in about 20 minutes before we closed, and Larry and I had to hustle to get them the craziest drinks,” says Schubert. “The only way to get them to leave was to tell them to meet us at Nachbar (which is where we’d always end up after work), and the rest of that story gets hazy. 732 was kind of a well-known industry spot for people who were coming into town.”
Schubert is most looking forward to seeing his old regulars and catching up with the ones he’s lost touch with.
“A lot of time has gone by, and a lot of things have happened. Seeing their faces as they walk in and the amount of memories that’ll come rushing back is what I’m looking forward to the most,” he says. “And getting a chance to work with everyone again — most of us haven’t worked together since then. This’ll be the first time Larry and I have been back behind a bar together in a while.”
“732 Social Redux” will run from 5 p.m. to midnight on Thursday, Nov. 9, at Galaxie, 732 E. Market St. There will be small plates and cocktails, as well as two family-style dinners that will take place inside the Green Building. Tickets for that dinner are not yet available, but details will be posted on the event’s Facebook page.