Up—Down Bar Hopes to Open in CWE Balaban’s Space, Meeting 3/22

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Up—Down, a bar that describes itself as “a safe, fun, and nostalgic entertainment experience that presents an alternative to the traditional bar scene” hopes to be the next tenant of the prominent Balaban’s space on Euclid Avenue in the Central West End. The company’s Managing Partner and General Manager are hosting an informal question and answer session at the Mary Ann Tea Room at 6:30 pm tomorrow evening (3/22).

Of course, the NIMBYs are ready to act. NEXT STL first caught wind of Up—Down from someone attempting to stop the establishment from opening. Resistance to a bar can make sense of course. Sometimes they try to open in a non-commercial area, sometimes the owners have a bad track record, sometimes the concept is just a bad fit. We haven’t spoken to anyone from the company, but a quick search shows that Up—Down isn’t just another bar.

Well, it may be just another bar for nostalgic Gen-Xers and old Millennials with extra cash. It’s no secret that the city’s Central West End has gotten expensive (how’s $3,300/mo for a 2BD?), and has faded from being the place where young St. Louisans and students, unless you count 30-year-olds with a PhD, choose to loiter. Still, concerns about this Up—Down as expressed to NEXT STL were the usual noise-kids-crime.

What is Up—Down? The bar has locations in Des Moines, Kansas City, and Minneapolis. The New York Times visited the KC location and said Up—Down, “stokes childhood nostalgia for both Gen-Xers and millennials, with synthesizer-heavy ’90s pop backing the real soundtrack of constant beeping from games. The roughly 40 vintage arcade games — including Donkey Kong, Tetris and Back to the Future — cost a quarter. Each has a cup holder for local beers or mixed drinks.”

So it’s a slightly poorer, younger, and more fun Cafe Napoli? Perhaps a slightly richer and older Handle Bar? There are a whole lot more stories and descriptions of Up—Down from various media, including, “for a nerdy, aging millennial, it’s a dream come true,” “when was the last time you had a genuine, positive interaction with a stranger while gaming?”, “go retro and relive your childhood on more than 40 arcade games from the ‘80s and ‘90s” …you get the idea. For what it’s worth, Up—Down says its social media followers are 53% female/46% male and age group splits are 13% 21-24, 48% 25-34, and 28% 35-44.

You only have to glance at the photos on the Up—Down website to see that it would be something new for St. Louis. And beyond the bar experience, it’s apparent the company takes pride in its neighborhoods and invests in its locations. Before and after images of its Kansas City (Crossroads Arts District) and Minneapolis (Lyn Lake) locations look good. The old Balaban’s space may not need much of an exterior makeover, but a remake inside would be welcome.

Minneapolis before and after:

KC before and after:

If you make it to the meeting, please ask them why they didn’t go with Up-Up-Down-Down-Left-Right-Left-Right-B-A instead of Up—Down.

The Balaban’s space as its most recent incarnation as Herbie’s:

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  • Camelia Sabeva

    I live a hop and skip from the old Balibans/Herbies space and have been hearing tons of excited buzz about this new idea from many who live and work in the area.

    I want to take an opportunity to really express how that some people in this area REALLY need to lighten up and get off their high horses bc they tune you sing is negative and so played out.. you are not King of what gets to be and doesn’t get to be around. Yes, the CWE has an extremely diverse makeup. It has for a long time and that is why people love it. Yes, there are multi million dollar homes on gated streets, there are also a plethora of rent spaces of affordable apartments around if only you take the time to look. Luxury condos going up literally by the day and the area has never been as bustling and cosmopolitan as it is now.

    Anyone who actually lives down here remembers the absolute ambush the stuffy old folks brought forth over Lesters. These close minded grumpsters gave them absolute hell from day one til the time they shut their doors. Lesters was an ‘eye sore’ in their eyes, never good enough, too loud, too sporty, too this, too that. I don’t care for sports and can count on one hand how many times I eat chicken wings a year, but let it be! No on loses their mind that Culpeppers has been doing the same thing for years!

    Give someone new a chance to make their mark and lighten up! I think that Up Down would be a very unique and fresh addition to our neighborhood. We NEED something like this!

    As far as that this type of place will attract more pan handlers – well that’s just absurd. Again, for those who actually live/work in the West End or hang out here regularly.. we all know that some guy claiming to be an army veteran or a diabetic etc etc will ask you for money in front of Straubs, Scape, Chase Park and many other locations just as much as Left Bank Books corner or God forbid, in front of Jennis Ice Cream. That’s called city life.

    We do not live in a bubble, this is the city and if you don’t want any new businesses or places of entertainment that plan to actually offer activities OUTSIDE of just drinking – perhaps it’s time to head out out to a culdesak in Chesterfield or even Kirkwood just can’t fathom going that far West.

  • Riggle

    Location is… odd, but more power too ’em if they can make it happen. It’s not really new to st louis, start bar has been kicking around for awhile, and silver ballroom (just pinball) has been a south side staple, and don’t forget RKade on Cherokee. If they want to capture the midcounty types on the way to Start Bar the location is ok, but they could do the same thing in the Grove, for less, and IMO get more customers. A Grove location could get Southsiders who are now going to Start Bar, but they wont be as inclinded to go all the way to the heart of the CWE.

    • STLEnginerd

      there is also Orbit lounge in Maplewood which incidentally might be what pushed them away from the Grove… I’d agree that The Grove, The Loop or Midtown would have been a little more ideal location with respect to their business model and target market.

      I’ve been to the KC location and they definitely take the concept to another level. In another phase of my life something like that would have been part of the regular rotation of my weekend entertainment choices.

  • Michelle M

    I think this will be a great addition to the McPherson/Euclid corner and help draw business to the neighborhood. Sounds like a unique, fun and laid back atmosphere that would be a good fit for the area and something different for the CWE. Will be nice to have them occupying the old Herbies space.

    • Guest

      Ah…! The old Herbies…fond memories. When the Mexican Restaurant moved in after Adelaide shuttered Herbies, they inserted that second floor, I felt that space had been raped (I believe it was originally built ~1930 as The Women’s Apparel Exchange…?). Someone needs to restore that wonderful space.

  • Jakeb

    This is my neighborhood. There is a vocal group of residents who simply oppose any new bar (and a smaller vocal group who oppose everything). They fought tooth and nail to keep Lesters (now Kingside) out. You will see this on full display should the Studio Gang building on Kingshighway move to permitting.

    Political leadership is about listening without being cowed and doing what’s best for the community. Typically, persistence pays off for the owners.

    I have mixed feelings about this project. As someone else pointed out below, this does not seem like the best location for what they do. The old Hamburger Mary’s site (3037 Olive) seems better suited, and likely less expensive to rent or purchase.

    I’m told the former Balaban’s/Herbies site has issues for attracting a new restaurant. The kitchen needs significant updating and at 200 seats it’s bigger/more expensive than most restaurants want today.

    If the owners are committed to this project, they will likely get it done. I’ll certainly go and check it out.

    • Ashley

      I love up down in KC, it is a great bar. But you have a good point about Hamburger Mary’s. It would be a great site for this type of bar and this bar could help spur more development in that part of Midtown

    • STLrainbow

      uh old Hamburger Mary’s spot has been occupied for some time now by Olive Bar. Next door is a sushi place and Dave Bailey will be opening up a pizza place the block up… the area is pretty hot.

  • NotGenXStereoType

    Looks kind of interesting. It’s another social gathering place so worth it in my opinion. That’s one thing I like about CWE. It does have some nice meet up places. I’m not into arcade games as much but would like to try it. I didn’t have that kind of childhood.

    Surprised by how high the rent is for a 2-bedroom in CWE, $3000+. Sign of the times, I guess. For a city that has lost 80,000 people over the last 15 years and has lost 60% of its entire population over the last 50 years, why are rents so high? Why would anyone choose to live in CWE when you can live elsewhere in the region for way less? I was surprised by a person from NYC area who said that he found St. Louis’ rent to be comparable to what he has found in NYC area. Crazy.

    Folks can certainly commute in to CWE and that they don’t necessarily have to live there and pay that kind of rent. Go cheap bastard route. Try to go for as lower rent as you can in as safe area as you can. Keep more $ with you. Think of all the things that you can do to redirect money saved from lower rent. Just saying.

    • STLrainbow

      I’d like to insert the biggest eye roll ever regarding the CWE housing comment.

      • Alex Ihnen

        Yeah. Who knows why the CWE is so popular. Demand = high rents. Clearly it’s not for everyone. Conversely, lack of demand = low rents. It’s like saying people are silly for living in D.C. or Chicago when it costs less to live in St. Louis. I guess that’s factually true, but so what?

    • kjohnson04

      Yep. I sublet a room in an apartment in Washington Heights for three months and it was $600. And I was around the corner from rents similar to this. Of course, NYC has a 1% vacancy rate on apartments and they are charging what the market will bear.

      If you go south of Forest Park and north of Delmar, the rents drop off so much, you can buy a new house for less than that (South) or an entire block of buildings (north).

    • Justin

      I think $3000 would be towards the upper bound for a 2 bedroom in the CWE. I rented a 2 bedroom apartment on forest park avenue for around $1200 (about 1k Square feet; this was about 4 years ago). There are plenty of places where you can pay well under $1000 for rent if you have 1 room mate. Most 2 bedrooms are unlikely to even break $1500

      Edit: Also if someone is finding rent in St. Louis to be comparable to NYC they must not be looking for very hard for an apartment. Most 2 Bdrm apartments I have rented have been under 1000

      • Alex Ihnen

        Yes. $3K is noted because it’s the exception and rare. Plenty of 1br apartments for $750 and efficiency apts for $500 to be found.

    • jhoff1257

      Sounds like a good plan for you. If people like the neighborhood and can afford it, good for them. Not everyone thinks the way you do.

  • Steve Brinkmann

    What a great opportunity for the CWE. A positive diversity for the area. I am excited to see the residents and business owners of the CWE welcome Up-Down and their concept to their inclusive community.

  • PD

    “So it’s a slightly poorer, younger, funner Cafe Napoli?” Dude you havent been to Napoli in a while… That place is for suckers and woman looking for a man to buy them the world. Start bar downtown is a fun place for all and I dont have to catch a guy doing blow in the bathroom or a girl throwing up wearing a string. I hope up down is a success and plan to visit as soon as its open. Maybe the loop would be better suited but this location will be just fine.

  • Adam

    did you tell said person trying to stop it from opening to stop being such a wretched old curmudgeon and shove it? 🙂

    • Alex Ihnen

      That’s the purpose on this post. 🙂

  • stlnative

    This isn’t something new for St. Louis. Start Bar downtown is essentially the same thing. Maybe not as many games, but they have great food and snacks. Awesome environment.

    The Up/Down in KC is a super fun place, but i’m not so sure that CWE is the best neighborhood for this.

    • Adam

      it does seem like an odd location, at least compared to their others (mostly based on the building style). maybe this would work better in the Grove or on Laclede near SLU?

  • Nick

    NIMBY-ism for an arcade bar? How is that even possible?

    • kjohnson04

      Look at why Shriner’s moved back to the City. They opposed a hospital…for children. This doesn’t surprise me at all.