Two professors open Tavern of Fine Arts

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Two professors open Tavern of Fine Arts

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Here is a list: Doctorate in music composition, fine arts professor at Saint Louis University, restaurant and bar owner. Which of these things is not like the other? For professors Matt Daniels and Aaron Johnson of the Department of Fine and Performing Arts, they all fit perfectly. Since Aug. 1, 2011, Johnson and Daniels have co-owned the Tavern of Fine Arts in the DeBaliviere Place neighborhood.

“It all started a couple of years ago. My cousin Matt and I were sitting around and we thought ‘Wouldn’t it be neat to have a place?’” Johnson said. “That sort of brought all the visual and performing arts into one place in a very casual and relaxed atmosphere. No one else was doing it. It just didn’t exist.”

This unique combination of visual and performing arts in a relaxed atmosphere is exactly what Johnson and Daniels said they have accomplished with the Tavern of the Fine Arts. With walls decorated by the work of local artists and events ranging from the performance of one act plays, to opening release parties for a new poetry printing press to string quartet performances, the Tavern has something to offer for everybody.

“What we’re trying to do is be equal parts wine bar and cafe, art gallery, and performing space,” Johnson said.

As for the wine bar and cafe, Johnson said he and Daniels have very little experience. Johnson worked briefly in college at a hotel restaurant in Kirksville, Mo. during the time between his undergraduate and graduate careers, but owns no further experience in the industry.

“We are certainly learning as we’re going,” Johnson said. “There have been challenges, but at the same time it’s very much rewarding.”

According to Johnson, the two co-owners depend upon their own tastes to guide the menu, which are often times quite different. Johnson said it allows them to cater to a variety of tastes, especially when it comes to wine, and said that Daniels even created a house made ginger ale for the designated driver to add to the diverse list of drinks, leaving something for everyone to try. The menu consists of a mixture of “light plates,” flatbreads, sandwiches and desserts ranging in price from $4 to $7, as well as a selection of 25 different wines from which to choose.

Johnson said that the Tavern’s clientele is very eclectic. All age groups and demographics can be found enjoying the atmosphere. Those likely to enjoy the Tavern will “enjoy, first of all, the fine and performing arts, and those who like just very comfortable, quiet, relaxed atmospheres,” Johnson said.

Even with the diverse wine list and affordable food prices, Johnson said he enjoys the fact that events at the Tavern tend to bring people together that otherwise might not be brought together.

“As some of our customers have said, what we’re doing is creating a community and they feel a part of that community,” Johnson said. “That makes me feel good, that we’re creating this community,” Johnson said. The Tavern of the Fine Arts is also unique, according to Johnson, in that it provides a chamber space for classical musicians to perform. Johnson said the Tavern aims to present chamber music in an environment that it was intended for – something very small and intimate. “Finally there is a proper venue for that music,” Johnson said.

Some SLU students said they also find appeal in the Tavern. Junior Amy Krzmarzick said she enjoys the potential new scenery and a laid-back atmosphere.“I think it’s a different environment than the ones that are already out here,” Krzmarzick said. “I think that would have some appeal, if my girlfriends and I were looking for a more relaxing night.”

For any students striving to open their own business someday, Johnson said that there are three things to remember: “Know what you’re getting into, do a lot of research, and be very patient  because it really takes patience to succeed.”