Bearish About Beer
Unpeggable beer spot Union Bear may have closed in West Village, but it shall return, vows new owner Preston Lancaster. His 33 Restaurant Group owns Taverna Rossa and Cadillac Pizza Pub, and Lancaster says that Union Bear represents another intriguing concept that will make the 33 family more complete.
"We love the idea that we have a really cool concept," he says. "We love the name, look and feel of the restaurant."
Union Bear has some things in common with its new siblings, in that they all serve pizza and beer. But there are nuances.
"They have their differences, and we would play off those unique elements," Lancaster says. "Union Bear had 40 beers on tap, and in its original form was going to be a nano-brewery, and so we've got ideas to play off of that. With Union Bear, we'd put more emphasis on the craft beer side."
The cuisine and vibe are also different, he says. "Union Bear is a decidedly American pizza bar," he says. "We like coining it that way."
Lancaster and partners Tony Smith and Jimmy Cannon are working on a location, and already they are in talks with real estate folks.
"We've been talking to some developers in the suburbs and in Dallas," he says. "We've been mostly in the suburbs, but I feel a lot of pull toward Dallas. It depends on the area and the concept.
"If we find an area that’s just right for another Taverna Rossa, we would go with that. If it's better suited for a Union Bear, we would go that route."
That said, they're not in a rush; it's about finding the right spot. "We're coming up on a year since we opened Taverna Rossa, and we're still to this day tweaking and bettering everything we do," he says.
Lancaster counts himself a fan of the Spillers family, both Union Bear founders Matt and Shane Spillers, and their mother, designer Donna Spillers.
"Donna has helped me in the design process, and we've known Matt and Shane for a long time," Lancaster says. "As soon as Union Bear opened, we were huge fans and big customers. We always liked the concept, so when they decided to close we felt like that was a great concept we would like to see somewhere else."