St. Louis landmark Venice Cafe to open June 17

I have a secret obsession with corner bars.

There is something about these pieces of Americana, especially the ones I discover living in south St. Louis.  I think in some ways they remind me of what a saloon in the Old West might have been like. Neighborhood folks gathering after work to drink beer, spilling their guts and their worries to each other over a brew or cocktail. Some corner bars can appear rough, dingy or even scary, but that is part of the appeal I dare say.

So, I’ve decided to honor the greatness of the corner bar.  In this space, I will begin telling you the stories of some of our city’s greatest haunts.

The Venice Cafe To Reopen June 17

In the spirit of the south St. Louis tavern, the Venice Cafe is not. The Venice is a monster of its own design. The Venice swings. The Venice is hot, untamed, odd, funky, adventure, swingin’, obscure, famous, and odd. And, it’s on a corner. So it counts.

And with all that, the news has arrived that the spirit that is The Venice Cafe, is back, but with some important changes that everyone needs to know about.

Only the patio and garden spaces will be open. The staff has arranged tables and seating to best accommodate the recommended social distance between groups. Masks are required if you are not at a table, walking about, making an order, checking the scene, or going to the bathroom.

Customers are to bus their own tables.

“We understand that these rules may seem annoying, inconvenient or even overbearing to some. Those folks are very welcome to enjoy other sights and sounds around the world as there is NO rule stating that they HAVE to come to Venice,” writes the bar on its Facebook page.

The History

Like any St. Louis corner bar, The Venice Cafe has a history.

According the bar’s website:

Jeff Lockheed bought the property on the Northwest corner of Pestalozzi and Lemp in 1978 after getting fired from an airline for wearing an earring to work (true story). Back then, Benton Park was a very different place, with almost no population aside from tumbleweeds of rubbish and packs of wild dogs.

Jeff’s eccentric friends were constant visitors and in 1987 he decided to open his home as a REAL café!!

However, everyone brought in their own booze, so Lockheed decided to apply for his liquor license in 1988.

Venice Café then took on the business model it follows today: Booze and beauty for cash.

Upstairs, they have The Explorer’s Lounge open only Friday and Saturday nights and for special events. It’s embellished in taxidermy, totems, rustic art, sports memorabilia, and any other items you’d expect to see while discussing your latest escapades in the bush.In the back, you’ll find The Blue Hole; one of the finest latrines in the world. A trip to drain the lizard will leave you feeling like royalty. When ordering a drink, say hello to our resident kingsnake, Mr. Waylon Slithers. He is securely kept in a large tank behind the bar and tends to cuddle up in a vacant turtle shell during nap times.

The Garden is only open in the warm months when the boss can display his impressive collection of flowers and greenery. By mid-July, it becomes a cosmic jungle of oddities. Enjoy a cocktail at the boat bar, or, you may sit by the pond and sing songs to the resident turtles, Myrtle and Shemmy. Please don’t throw pennies in the pond. You’ll hurt the shell babies and your dumb wish will never come true.

The tchotchke that adorns every conceivable space comes from years of collecting, gifting, trash sifting and creating by a multitude of artists and craftsmen. They’re always looking for new and exciting items for their home. If you’d like to donate, please leave your endowment by the alley door and the boss with either take it in or throw it away for you.

Our staff is an inscrutable tribe of creative types that make ends meet by slinging libations for you. Their “real jobs” are those of artists, performers, musicians, and craftsmen. They are happy to serve you the beverage of your choice, provide entertainment, and suggest local eateries or attractions nearby.

Warning: The fierce bartenders are robust and clever and their retorts to any foolishness may leave severe burns. You’re welcome!

1 Comment

  1. I have been going to the Venice since it opened and became a close friend to Jeff and many of its patrons. I play music there, I paint there, and of course solve the worlds problems with a cold one at the boat bar. I loved the place so much that I designed my home in Fenton to look like a light version of it (many call it Venice West). Jeff has poured his life into this place and it shows… It is constantly evolving and he is producing new artwork every single day. There is only one place like Venice Cafe and I highly recommend visiting it especially in the simmer when the garden is open… It is a true St. Louis Landmark

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