It’s no secret that a substantial chunk of St. Louis’s culture is inextricably tied to the production, sale and consumption of intoxicating liquors, due mainly to the city’s century-and-a-half long history as a beer-brewing hub .
Because of its position as a leading alcohol producer in the U.S. and its historically conservative attitudes toward government regulation, post-prohibition liquor laws in Missouri have never grown quite as stringent as those in surrounding states. In fact, regulatory peculiarities — like Missouri’s lack of open-container, “sabbath” and public intoxication laws — make our state one of the most permissive in the nation when it comes to alcohol.
Another peculiar element of Missouri’s unusually laissez-faire liquor laws is that some jurisdictions, including the cities of Kansas City and St. Louis, have no restriction against a single business possessing licenses for for both on-site and off-site liquor consumption. In other words, in Missouri, bars can double as liquor stores and vice versa.
So now that you’ve got the necessary background, it’s time for the field trip portion of this history lesson. Here are eight St. Louis-area bars where you can take full advantage of Missouri’s exceptionally booze-friendly regulatory climate.
Iowa Buffet (2727 Winnebago Street; 314-776-8000)
First on our list is one of south St. Louis’s most well-loved dives. Situated at the corner of Iowa and Winnebago in the Gravois Park neighborhood, Iowa Buffet is primarily known for its cheap beer, cheap burgers and friendly neighborhood vibe. One of their lesser-known virtues, though, is that they sell package liquor to those who want to drink, but don’t really feel like hanging at the bar.
One-Nite Stand (2800 Ohio Avenue; 314-776-0996)
Another south city dive with a long history of debauchery, the One-Nite Stand sits on the stretch of Gravois that separates the Benton Park West and Fox Park Neighborhoods. While the bar’s main attractions are its cheap drinks, karaok, and “dance pole” (as the owners describe it), package liquor sales are the boozy cherry on this dive-sundae.
33 Wine Shop and Bar
(1913 Park Avenue; 314-231-9463)
Owned by certified sommelier James Smallwood, Lafayette Square’s 33 Wine Shop and Bar occupies the opposite end of the spectrum, swapping Busch and Fritos for high-end beer, wine, cheese and charcuterie. Though the shop’s laurels might make it sound stuffy, it’s actually a pretty cozy place to kick back and sample some of their selection (which is both large and well-curated) before you decide what to take home.
St. Louis Wine Market and Tasting Room (164 Chesterfield Commons East Road, Chesterfield; 314-536-6363)
Way out west on the parking-lot plains of Chesterfield, at the far end of a strip mall in the Boone’s Crossing shopping complex, is a suburban gem. St. Louis Wine Market and Tasting Room is a surprisingly friendly business split into two connected spaces: On the retail side, they’ve got a substantial and well-organized selection of wines. On the other side is a tasting room where they serve a small, but representative offering of wines by the glass.
Saint Louis Hop Shop (2606 Cherokee Street; 314-261-4011)
The newest St. Louis business on our list, Hop Shop owners Justin Harris and Ryan Griffin opened their doors in July of last year, and have since made themselves an integral part of the close-knit community of small businesses on Cherokee. In addition to the Hop Shop’s surprisingly large selection of beers, Harris and Griffin have devoted about half of their small but uncluttered space to a tasting room where you can enjoy some of their bottles and cans, as well as a handful draft beers from St. Louis’ brand-new Modern Brewery.
Clayton Craft Beer Cellar (8113 Maryland Avenue, Clayton; 314-222-2444)
Located in downtown Clayton, the Craft Beer Cellar has an expansive selection of craft beers from all over the world, and every member of their floor staff is, at minimum, either a Cicerone Certified Beer Server or a BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) certified judge. Credentials aside, they’re also super-friendly. To top it off, the Craft Beer Cellar even lists their current draft selections on their website, so you can see what they’ve got before you even decide to leave the house.
Grove East Provisions
(3101 Arsenal Street; 314-802-7090
While Grove East Provisions is, in most senses, neither a liquor store nor a bar, Barry Kinder’s corner cafe does take advantage of Missouri’s lax liquor laws with excellent results. With a small but solid selection of wines and craft beers, in addition to spirits from Missouri’s Pinckney Bend Distillery, Grove East Provisions has made itself one of the best places in the neighborhood to grab a drink or take something home.
Rosie’s Place (4573 Laclede Avenue; 314-631-6423)
Without a doubt the Central West End’s diviest dive, Rosie’s Place is delightfully tiny spot just across the street from decidedly not-divey establishments like Taste and Brasserie, both part of Gerard Craft’s Niche family. Partly as a service to food-industry folk who get out of work late and might want a drink without the bar atmosphere, Rosie’s offers both beer and small bottles of liquor to-go. That said, we’d highly recommend sticking around for at least one, as Rosie’s is one of the CWE’s most interesting spots for people-watching.