A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.
This week's column is a reprint of last week's ON THE AVENUES ay NA Confidential. Next week I'm taking a vacation day.
Those of you who are reading locally, or are familiar with the recent history of the New Albanian Brewing Company, already know that in May we suspended the kitchen at Bank Street Brewhouse for purely financial reasons. We couldn't figure out a way to make money from a menu we all loved, and so we stopped to consider other possibilities.
It wasn't easy, but of course good things seldom are. We're trying to reboot BSB as a brewery taproom, freely borrowing ideas from other places near and far, and it will take time for the new concept to take shape. One of the central pillars of this evolving plan is to determine ways to encourage our customers to continue eating -- just not food we're preparing on site (with occasional exception, like the two pop-up dinners to date).
The possibilities are endless, and they reflect the multitude of options within minutes of our building:
Carry-in from nearby eateries
Takeout Taxi (see below)
Delivery from those who do so
Vendors cooking in the beer garden
Food trucks, at least as they begin arriving in New Albany
But here's the rub: Even with all of these options, it is impossible for us to continue serving alcoholic beverages by the glass without complying with an Indiana state law dating from the time before color television that defines bars as restaurants serving drinks.
From the moment the kitchen change at BSB was announced, I was well aware of this fact; after all, the law is 13 years older than me. I spoke with the regional Alcohol and Tobacco Commission and made sure we had the materials necessary to comply with the rule (note that this is not uncommon): Frozen weenies, buns, cans of soup, instant coffee, powdered milk and soft drinks enough to serve 25 persons.
To make a long and annoying story shorter, we failed our first test of this new "menu," and so I went back to the drawing board. In order to keep ourselves aware of the responsibility not just to store these foodstuffs, but to serve them, I decided to incorporate them in a real, tactile menu and to price them based on the surreal nature of the law itself, which does not stipulate mark-ups. Moreover, we needed to collate the carry-in and delivery information in one place. Perhaps one well aimed stone would do the trick.
Hence, the menu reprinted below. Much to my surprise, it landed on the front page of Reddit on Tuesday, generating more than 1,700 often amusing comments, and since then it has been picked up by a dozen other internet sites.
Knock me over with the proverbial feather.
There's an undeniable element of Chicken Little (nuggets?) to all this. For once, I've not sought the notoriety, and I have absolutely no beef (teriyaki, perhaps) with the ATC. They're the police, and the police enforce laws; end of story.
However, in perfect sincerity, I feel as though we're doing our level best to honor the obvious intent of the 1947 statute by offering ways for our customers to eat while they drink. Dragon King's Daughter keeps longer hours than BSB, and its kitchen is closer to the BSB front door than many service bars are to their patio seats.
Isn't the law somewhat archaic? It doesn't mention pizza, and both the sandwiches and the soup must be "hot," ruling out chicken salad on rye and gazpacho. Is a taco a sandwich? We now know that coffee plays no sobering role, and perhaps the Dairy Council inserted the milk provision as a sop to Indiana milk cows. Today's service industry realities are light years removed from a shots 'n' beer roadhouse in 1947, and the law does not take these realities into account.
The BSB kitchen remains licensed, and we continue to sift through ideas to restore a cost-effective food service to the limited space we have to utilize. The options are countless, and as they are considered, it is my hope that the following "compliance" menu suffices as proper statutory observance, as we've always prided ourselves on adhering to the rules defining our daily business.