Humphrey’s: SLU’s 40-year-old watering hole gets new look

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On June 18, Humphrey’s Restaurant and Tavern, the beloved SLU institution, celebrated the 40th anniversary of its founding. After four decades marked by remarkable consistency, however, the bar and restaurant at 3700 Laclede Ave. will look to turn the page on nostalgia and set in on establishing a new chapter in its storied history.

As revealed by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, this coming spring, if plans hold, will see the demolition of the original building—part of which dates back to 1904— and its replacement with a more contemporary structure.

While Humphrey’s will remain at the same location, the new plan calls for, amongst other things, Laclede- and Spring St.- facing outdoor seating, a second-story outdoor terrace with its own bar, a designated banquet space and room for up to three retail stalls flanking the restaurant.

These upgrades largely reflect broader trends in the bar and restaurant industry as a whole. Many college bars across the country have begun the shift from holein-the-wall, greasy-spoon type establishments to modern and open floor plans that accommodate more patrons and are especially well suited for dancing and mingling rather than the traditional seated gathering. If the design firm chosen to undertake the rebuilding is any indication—Oculus, whose calling card is sleek lines and a modern feel–it would seem to indicate that Humphrey’s figures to fall into this same general category.

While Humphrey’s might be changing aesthetically, perhaps the biggest news to come from the announcement is the inclusion of the additional retail space on the property. Te addition of independent retail space reflects the growing demand and value of property in the Cortex-Grand Center-Central West End region as well as a desire to serve and do business with the upward trending SLU population.

Reaction to the recent news has been decidedly mixed as some have bemoaned a perceived lack of character that the renderings seem to convey. Casey Roberts, a member of the class of 2016, echoed the feelings of many of the upperclassman and recent alumni in stating her displeasure. “It is so sad to think that next time I go visit SLU’s campus one of my favorite aspects of it will be completely different,” she stated when asked her reaction to the news.

Current senior Brian Dugan built upon that sentiment and reflected that “As it stands pre-demolition, Humphrey’s charm is its transcendence of time at SLU. It knew the campus when cars could drive on West Pine, and it watched the construction of Spring Hall.

Ultimately, it’s a dive bar driven by nostalgia and tradition. Generations of Billikens have spent their Wednesday nights there. It still has Big Buck Hunter and Golden Tee, and the inflation rate of penny pitchers over the past forty years greatly lags behind that of tuition.

“It doesn’t have the glamour of Ballpark Village, but it doesn’t need to.” Dugan went on to add his concern that, “Demoing the building for a new one runs of the risk of creating a bar that blends in to the point of not having character.” He remains hopeful however, as many do, that “the new bar will create its own life at SLU, distinct from both its predecessors and its neighbors.”

Others, typically younger members of the SLU community, have celebrated the announcement as exciting news with regards to their anticipation of their coming time at Humphrey’s. One freshman, Stephen Olwig, mused that the new plan seemed to be a sort of “Hump’s on steroids” with the expectance that the fun would correlate directly with its increased size.

“When you look at places like Mizzou and Ole Miss and Alabama, these are the types of places that are on every street corner in those schools’ towns and it only makes sense that SLU-centric bars and restaurants would seek to replicate their success.”

Even though Humphrey’s physically is changing and has even seen some changes to its ownership (as local businessman Bernie Squitieri took over the restaurant in May), Janis Mangelsdorf –who started the business along with her nowdeceased husband, Robert “Humphrey” Mangelsdorf, himself a graduate of the John Cook School of Business in 1969–has remained a constant as she will continue to be involved in the management.

While some things inevitably change, some also inevitably stay the same. And so it is with the bar at 3700 Laclede Ave. known simply as “Hump’s.”