Speakeasy Steeped in History

New Fort Worth cocktail bar Thompson Book Store has quite a story

New Fort Worth cocktail bar Thompson Book Store has quite a story

Thompson Book Store, Fort Worth
A new cocktail bar called Thompson Book Store will go into a vintage building in Fort Worth. Photo courtesy of John Roberts, AIA

Other than Magnolia bar The Usual, Fort Worth has been a little slow to warm up to the cocktail thing. But help is on the way, and it's going into a location steeped in history. A new bar called Thompson Book Store will open in the 1900s building at 900 Houston St. that was most recently Bar 9.

Owners are Glen Keely and William Wells, who also own Poag Mahones Irish Pub. They're naming their new bar after a one-time tenant and will retrofit the space to go with the name.

"My partner and I were looking for a new venture," Keely says. "When this building opened up, it fit with the idea of what we wanted to do: a cocktail lounge and speakeasy. It's behind the curve as far as the cocktail trend goes, but we were just waiting for the right spot to make the idea pop."

The essence of their concept, Keely says, is to recapture a certain mystique.

"We intend to breathe life back into this industry by recapturing what made watering holes so important to society before cookie cut franchises started dominating the landscape," he says. "Good booze, good music and great conversation. We're going to bring back the art of seduction."

Excited over the space, Keely rattles off its prior uses since it was built in 1910: Fort Worth Pharmacy, Atlantic Coffee Co., a cut-rate drug store and the namesake Thompson's Book Store. The latter opened in 1973 and then closed in 1993.

"We wanted a space that brought back the old nostalgia," Keely says. They'll incorporate touches such as bookshelves and serve classic cocktails with their own twist.

"We're producing our own sodas, some drinking vinegars, house-made limoncello and a lot of infused liquors," he says.

They're shooting to open in early March. When they open, they'll dedicate the bottom part to Thompson Book Store, then expand into the upper floors once they get off their feet with a separate concept they're not yet ready to divulge. Oooh, mystery.

"There'll be another level, but we're keeping that a secret for now," Keely says. "We're not going to reveal what that is until we get open."