Community driven Bier Station hosts 6th District meeting
By Jill Draper
The upstairs meeting room at the Bier Station is named Green Dragon in memory of an old Massachusetts tavern where secret groups gathered to plan the Boston Tea Party and the beginnings of the American Revolution. Paul Revere started his famous ride from there.
Bier Station owner John Couture is not looking for a revolution—he just wants his Waldo establishment to give back to the community, encourage more public discourse, and possibly offer a different direction from the dark, divisive path the nation sometimes seems to be taking.
In that spirit, he’s hosting a public meeting of Kansas City’s 6th District on Tuesday, Feb. 11 from 6-8 p.m. Constituents are invited to chat with Councilmembers Andrea Bough and Kevin McManus and city staff, who occasionally like to mix-up monthly morning meetings at the Trailside Center with evening gatherings in other parts of the district.
The Bier Station sits in a small shopping strip at 120 E. Gregory Blvd. Couture describes it as both a craft beer tasting bar and a bottle shop, “a true blend of a package store and a traditional pub with food, draft beer, wine and cocktails.”
“We were the first in the Midwest with this concept. That’s why I didn’t want to hesitate,” says Couture, a former video producer who studied media and public relations at UMKC before diving into the bar and restaurant scene. He had no experience with that type of work, but he considers that a good thing.
“I came into the industry with a consumer viewpoint,” he says, listing three tenets of an enjoyable bar experience. First, customers should not be disappointed by ordering a beer that has run out. At his place a digital screen displays exactly which varieties are in stock among dozens of ever-rotating taps. Second, customers should be able to order small 4-ounce pours, an uncommon practice at other bars. And third, employees should be nonjudgmental beer-enthusiasts, and never snooty about a customer’s choice.
It seems to be working. The Bier Station recently was named one of the best beer bars in America by CraftBeer.com and this month celebrates its 7th anniversary. (Telegraph columnist John Sharp did the original ribbon cutting—he was one of three City Councilmen who helped change an ordinance to permit package liquor sales at taverns.)
Now the goal is to maintain a legacy business, says Couture. He also wants to continue a giving program which donates a percentage of sales during fundraisers. According to his latest figures, the Bier Station has raised nearly $200,000 since January 2017 for community groups. One of the first beneficiaries was the ACLU after foreigners from seven Muslim countries were banned from entering the U.S.
“There was a lot of hateful language and actions during that time, especially for a country like us—a country of immigrants,” Couture says.
Many other groups have held fundraisers at the pub, including the Veterans Community Project (tiny houses), Big Brothers Big Sisters, Humane Society of Greater Kansas City, Sierra Club and Kansas City Public Library. Part of Couture’s inspiration comes from being the father of two girls, ages 10 and 13.
Big corporations can influence the world by giving out millions of dollars, he says. “But small businesses can give back, too. I don’t want my daughters asking me 20 years down the road, ‘Why didn’t you do more?’”
In addition to community events, the pub is known for Monday music trivia nights, happy hour specials and food that includes hand-cut fries, Bavarian pretzels, soups, salads and sandwiches. Couture’s favorite dish might be the bierock, a bakery bun filled with seasoned beef or portobello mushrooms, red cabbage, onion and Swiss cheese. But don’t ask him about a favorite beer.
“That’s impossible,” he says. “I love the variety.”