Moving Sidewalk In Downtown Houston Shifts Gears To Be More Of A Party Bar
The next time patrons step into Moving Sidewalk, the cocktail bar at 306 Main near Congress, they will find there have been some changes. Co-owner Alex Gregg says that changes in the structure, staff and overall concept are in response to a shift in what guests are seeking these days. “We’re doing what we can to respond to the demographics of downtown. We’re also making changes that we wanted to do since the beginning but never got around to for various reasons,” he said. “We’re making it more of a party vibe and more fun.” Going forward, Moving Sidewalk will be a hub for casual drinking, music and dancing.
Bolstered by Gregg’s reputation as one of the city’s most meticulous bartenders (thanks in part to his previous work at Anvil Bar & Refuge and The Pass & Provisions), Moving Sidewalk made its initial mark in 2014 as an unpretentious spot serving ambitious drinks. Its professionally designed menus and well-executed beverages expressed Gregg’s creative inspirations, paying homage to everything from sorely missed theme park AstroWorld to black-and-white, counterculture ’zines.
To cater to downtown customers, Moving Sidewalk has upgraded its sound system and removed a back alcove. There’s now a booth for DJs who will perform on Friday and Saturday nights, and a jukebox will soon be installed, too. Guests can move to the beat on a modest dance floor.
Replacing tables and chairs along one long wall with a drink rail further opened up the space. “No one ever sat at those tables and on the weekends they just created bottlenecks,” says Gregg. “We just opened it up to make it more comfortable. Aesthetically, we hung a bunch of new artwork and made subtle tweaks to the lighting.”
There are staff changes, too. Gregg is falling back to a role of co-owner (much like his business partners Brad Moore and Ryan Rouse) and Josh Alden, formerly of Wooster’s Garden and Heights Bier Garten, is taking over day-to-day operations as bar manager. “I’ve always respected what Alex has done and have wanted to work with him. This seemed like a good opportunity to join forces,” he said. “I think this is a good transition—and a smart one.”
The current drink list honoring former rock radio station KLOL is the last themed menu. It will be available for at least a few more weeks. Alden’s favorite drink on the current list is the “Crash” Collins, named for the late DJ and made with Ford’s Gin, clarified lemon cordial, Racer 5 IPA and Galveston Bay sea salt-infused amaro.
Gregg is considering installing a frozen drink machine in the near future. “The drink list will become more standardized and have a bigger selection of classics,” he said. “The emphasis will be less on housemade ingredients and more on minimalism and quality, like awesome three-ingredient drinks. I don’t think there are going to be a lot of turmeric-pineapple gomme syrups.”
Alden, though, emphasizes that drink quality will remain high. “We want to satisfy what guests are looking for without compromising on the quality of the beverages,” he said.
The changes fall very much in line with a relaxing of sorts in the overall craft cocktail bar scene, both nationally and in Houston. After a decade of hyper-focusing on quality ingredients, it’s no longer as difficult to find well-made cocktails. The point has been proven, so it’s now onward to the next phase—one where it is safe to add some whimsy.
“There are a lot of things we’ve done to impress ourselves,” said Gregg with a laugh. “That worked for a minute. Now we need to think more about the guests who are available to us and less about impressing our friends.”
Alden summed up what to expect at the revitalized Moving Sidewalk, saying, “We have great, hospitable bartenders who serve with an air of care and fun, and make guests feel comfortable geeking out on a small batch bourbon while listening to The Ataris.”
Disclaimer: Author and Houston Food Finder editor Phaedra Cook designed Moving Sidewalk’s KLOL menu, as well as other recent editions, on a work-for-hire basis.