In so many ways, today’s bars and restaurants are navigating what feels like a modern-day prohibition, creating to-go cocktails and packaging liquor, like we never before thought possible, or legal, especially in Utah. Events and large gatherings seem like either a distant memory or a fascinating future. At the same time, bellying-up to a bar looks a lot more like walking into your kitchen, basement, or bedroom, depending on the state of your world. 1920 is now to Bootlegging what 2020 has become to bootstrapping, a playful way to describe the ingenuity within hospitality, as purveyors work to keep the lights on and the bar wet.
Thinking Outside the Box
Casey Metzger, owner and founder of Top Shelf, a bar catering and experience business founded in 2008 and based right here in Park City, is just such a Bootstrapper. Having served spirits at events big and small, and with meticulous detail, for the last 12 years, “Some of the hardest times in people’s lives are some of their proudest moments, I think,” says Metzger, of pivoting to e-commerce, “Our industry has totally taken a hit, we’ve been completely derailed. During COVID, myself and my team of people that work with me, we started getting ideas together to say, how can we do what we do in this short term, long term, or whatever it looks like moving forward. The Bartenders’ Box is really what we took out of these brainstorming sessions. We poured our creativity and passion for entertaining into a box - by thinking out of the box.”
And for Metzger and his team of professionals, the quality was key, “We’re much more than bartenders, but we run a really great business. We have a lot of passion and a really great team,” says Metzger, “These kinds of boxes exist, but not the way we envisioned them. It’s a lot of glitz and glam and what we take a lot of pride in is the craft at which we practice,” says Metzger, “We create the experience. It’s Fresh, fun, and easy and twice the cocktail for half the price of going
Thinking inside the Box
For Metzger and his team, the mission was clear. Provide outstanding quality, ease of access, support local partnerships, and generate alternate revenue. “We realized it’s all about getting people together. We’ve taken a lot of pride in helping our clients entertain, and we’re trying to give the experience of being at a bar in the box,” says Metzger, drawing on what’s made Top Shelf the successful business it’s been for over a decade. “Part of our effort is to drive business to all local distilleries – Alpine, High West, Black Feather, Tempted Brick, New World distillery. Partnerships and virtual experiences to help [the distilleries] help us and to help inspire people to be their own bartender.” Inspiration Metzger and his team have made possible by bottling (and boxing) their talents, literally.
Inside each box are fresh-squeezed juices, prepackaged garnishes, and a bartender’s easel to hold your phone while you follow along with recipes like the Old Fashioned Dilemma and The Farmer’s Daughter. “It’s all fresh, and we do the heavy lifting,” says Metzger, “The recipe cards list the ingredients, and the QR code links to a YouTube channel which shows videos of us giving a tip, trick, joke, whatever.”
So, while it’s true that 2020 has felt like a bit of a throwback to the days when subverting law meant having a drink at all, today’s economy allows for a bit more flexibility, “Creativity is born out of times like this. Some of the biggest companies in the world evolve from recessions and when people really had to think on their feet and pivot,” says Metzger, “I don’t know if this is the next million-dollar idea, I doubt it, that’d be a lot of oranges. But it’s certainly contributing to us keeping the lights on and keeping a lot of jobs.”