St. Louis’ Rockwell Beer Co. recently announced the opening day of the Rockwell Beer Garden in Francis Park. Like many things in life, it did not come without its roadblocks.
Located in the St. Louis Hills neighborhood of south St. Louis, Rockwell Beer Garden will offer a family-friendly food menu featuring thin-crust party-cut pizzas, salads, dips, snacks and grab-and-go items, as well as a selection of the brewer’s craft beers + wine and cocktails. The term “family-friendly” was needed to help convince local folks to allow the beer garden. “The neighborhood that flanks the park includes tree lined streets, a school, churches on every corner, and lots of well cared for homes,” according to its website. Some residents were concerned the beer garden might bring a drunken element to the 60-acre city park.
“This is just going to bring in elements of hooligans and other people that that will destroy the park,” Francis Park neighbor Nick Riggio said.
After much convincing by the owners, St. Louis City awarded a liquor license to the business earlier this month.
Finally, late in the season, the beer garden will be open, weather permitting, through the middle of December. Days and hours will be posted weekly on social media and on the Rockwell Beer website.
The walk-up food counter, concession stand and outdoor dining/gathering space are located within and surrounding a fully rehabbed and reimagined 1929 “comfort center” building adjacent to the Francis Park tennis and pickleball courts. It looks beautiful (see it here) and apparently used to be an old coffee shop. The City of St. Louis Department of Parks recently added four pickleball courts to the park in addition to resurfacing the existing tennis courts. Rockwell will offer rental of pickleball equipment for guests looking to play one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States. That was a part of the whole idea here. Not to bring hooliganism to this gorgeous green space but some concessions and rental relief. From Fox 2 again:
“The primary focus of what’s going on down at the park is to provide concession as well as rental equipment for pickleball and tennis courts. Obviously, a brewery is operating it but the city of St. Louis, when they awarded it, as they communicated to me, felt we were the best candidate and we could do it as a responsible operator,” Nick Sanders, Rockwell Bewer [sic] Company’s lawyer said.
From a press release via Rockwell Beer:
“As a city resident who lives in the neighborhood, I made certain that creating a safe and welcoming environment was our top priority,” said Rockwell Beer Co. co-founder Heather Sanders. “Before we swung a hammer, we asked for input from residents and park users to make sure we were adding useful amenities to one of the city’s best parks. From new lighting and extensive facility upgrades to improved restrooms and an expanded patio with spacious seating and native plantings, this new interpretation of the comfort-center space respects the neighborhood’s history while enhancing visitors’ experience in the park. This project embraces David R. Francis’ original desire that the park bearing his name be used and maintained for recreational uses and purposes”.
Earlier this summer, Rockwell hired chef Michael Petres as its culinary director to develop the food program at the Beer Garden. Petres is a veteran of the St. Louis food scene, having served stints at The Ritz-Carlton, Balaban’s, ARAKA and Terrene. He spent 10 years at Niche Food Group, rising to the position of corporate executive chef overseeing all the company’s culinary operations. Rockwell also named longtime team member Nancy Etzkorn to serve as the Beer Garden’s general manager. Etzkorn was one of the first employees at Rockwell’s Tasting Room in The Grove and later developed the brewery’s successful To-Go-Beer concept.
The place looks amazing and has quality staff. We hope it does well, and we’ll keep you updated.