After three and a half years of hard work, Meredith Koko was finally ready to open Urban Stillhouse, the eagerly anticipated bar and restaurant from the team behind Horse Soldier Bourbon.
Then Covid-19 happened.
“We were supposed to open in January,” said Koko, whose father is a co-founder of Horse Soldier Bourbon. “Then we set a date of July and we moved it twice again after that, and finally pulled the trigger for August. I felt like there’s never going to be a great time at this point. Let’s just do this.”
It was worth the wait. The 16,000-square-foot space in the Warehouse Arts District, which formerly housed software company Genius Central, has been transformed into a highly Instagrammable destination for foodies and craft cocktail lovers. The decor, which includes a hand-laid brick fireplace and cozy seating areas, was inspired by places that are special to the team, including Scotland, Kentucky and Yellowstone National Park, where Koko and her family spent a lot of time.
“We’re taking all these places we love and making guests feel transported,” she said. “We want people to feel like they’re stepping outside of Florida.”
An ideal day at Urban Stillhouse would go something like this. Visitors would arrive in the morning and learn how to make spirits in the on-site distillery, which should be up and running by late November. While Horse Soldier Bourbon – named after the first U.S. Army Special Forces unit to enter Afghanistan after 9/11 – will continue to be produced in Columbus, Ohio, Urban Stillhouse will be making gin, rum and vodka for on-site consumption. Afterward, guests would hit the tasting room to sample bourbons and learn more about them. They’d finish up with a meal cooked on the kitchen’s wood-fired grill, followed by a Horse Soldier cocktail.
“We’re hoping to make bourbon really approachable for people who might not like bourbon, or think they don’t like bourbon,” Koko said.
For now, Urban Stillhouse is operating at 50 percent capacity so there’s a several-week wait for reservations, but Koko is pleased to finally be open and welcome guests to enjoy something new.
“St. Pete is an awesome community,” she said. “You can’t beat the people here in the Tampa Bay area.”