Longtime bartenders and newly engaged couple Ben Clemons and Alexis Soler are trying to add a new taste to Nashville’s bar scene with No. 308 in East Nashville.
They offer handcrafted cocktails using house-made sodas and other alcoholic and non-alcoholic concoctions in a dim bar with ample booths and couches but no TV screens or live music stages.
“It’s having a fun bar to go to and not your typical sports bar or music club that brings a different character to Nashville,” said part owner Dan Binkiewicz, who lives in Miami. “It’s kind of like a chemistry lab behind the bar with these two.”
Torn book pages from their four favorite poets and authors create the bar and countertops and the
$5 shots are created after the writers’ works and personalities: the William Burroughs shot is cola vodka, while the Richard Brautigan is whiskey with sugared watermelon.
“These writers were all chosen because they have great works, and I would rather have you read great literature than stare at a Miller Lite coaster all night,” Clemons said.
The menu includes meatloaf, steak salad, pork lettuce wraps and chicken parmesan for $8. Cocktails begin at $7.
“What we really wanted to do is create a place that runs the gamut of how people like to drink,” Soler said. “We want to bridge the gap for people who don’t drink cocktails, those looking for new cocktails and those getting tired of Jack and Coke. And we put the same effort into a whiskey and ginger as we do a crazy prohibition drink.”
Soler worked as a bartender for Binkiewicz and Richard Dispenzieri at their Miami lounges and grills before she followed her friends to Nashville and became a brand manager for French liquer St-Germain in 2009.
A few weeks into her new life, Soler went to work at a cocktail seminar in New Orleans and met Clemons. They became engaged a month later in Room 308 at the Ace Hotel in New York.
“It’s one of those things where you work with someone at tastings, parties and seminars and you get to know someone so well in an intense environment over a short period of time,” Clemons said.
“We found out we worked some of the same events before and knew the same people, so it was a wonder that we hadn’t met until then.”
They also shared the dream of owning a bar; they got matching tattoos of No. 308 and persuaded Soler’s former employers to invest along with a silent fifth partner in the new East Nashville spot.
They invested their life savings into creating the No. 308, Dispenzieri said, and the group signed a 12-year lease for the nook on Gallatin Avenue.
Lately, they’ve been too busy to plan a wedding. Soler and Clemons work as bartenders and managing partners.
“We both have been bartenders for so long, and this is a dream that we have always
shared. It’s one of those kinds of things that you want to do, and if have had that kind of responsibility in managing someone else’s bar then it’s natural to want that for yourself.”
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