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An RFT Investigation: How Does St. Louis’ All-You-Can-Drink Bar Measure Up?

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It's not difficult to understand why Open Concept's October debut raised a few eyebrows.

Billed as a pay-by-the-hour, drink-what-you-can-handle affair, the Cherokee Street bar housed in the space that was formerly home to Melt brings an admittedly novel concept to south city's bar scene. For a mere $10 an hour, patrons can unlock access to a variety of specialty cocktails and classic mixed drinks, as well as wine and beer. For $20 per hour, beverage options climb out of the wells and closer to the top shelf, with liquors including Maker's Mark, Patron, Hennessy and Glenlivet available in either shot form or as a base to create one's own drinks from a variety of mixers on hand.

Owner Michael Butler, who also serves as St. Louis' recorder of deeds, has said that the bar is "the first of its kind in the region and the state." Predictably, then, media outlets of both the local and national variety quickly took notice.

In the weeks before its official opening on October 4, Open Concept saw a deluge of press from the likes of NPR, Food & Wine, St. Louis Public Radio and many more — much of it focused on the opportunities for overconsumption the bar provides. "New Bar Lets You Drink (Sort Of) Unlimited Booze for an Hourly Rate," reads the headline used by Vice. "St. Louis Bar Charges By the Hour Rather Than the Drink — What Could Go Wrong?" asks The Takeout. "[P]eople tend to drink too much and get absolutely obliterated at unlimited bars (we've all been there)," Maxim notes.

To combat man's natural tendency to overindulge when money is no object, Butler insisted in interview after interview that the bar's staff won't hesitate to cut patrons off when they've had more than their fair share.

"When we see people becoming visibly intoxicated, we then serve them Pedialyte. We care about our customers," he says. "Most people, once they've been drinking, just want something fruity and tasty, so we can serve them that Pedialyte and say, 'Hey, you need to slow down.'"

But some were not convinced, and early criticism of Open Concept's business model came from both within and outside the ranks of local government, most vocally (but not exclusively) from former 7th Ward Democratic Committeewoman Marie Ceselski, who resigned her position upon the announcement that a presidential debate watch party would be held by the city and state Democratic parties at the bar.

"I am a lifelong Democrat as were my parents and grandparents before me. I will continue to support and vote for Democrats. But I will not be affiliated with organizations that associate with an all-you-can-drink for $10 an hour ... bar and ridiculous claims that Pedialyte sobers people up," Ceselski wrote in a statement. "I know too many people killed or injured by drunk drivers, too many with the chronic disease of alcoholism, too many with liver damage from drinking, to think this bar and data mining scam is an acceptable business for State Party and Central Committee to partner with. Shame on all of you that go to Tuesday's Watch Party at part-time Recorder of Deeds Michael Butler's bar."

It's easy enough to understand her concern. St. Louis is an infamously drunk city, built by beer barons and home to Brett Hull, who was recently declared the "drunkest man in America" by the New York Post on account of his boozy appearances during the duration of 2019's Stanley Cup playoffs. Do we really need new and exciting ways to pickle our livers?

But while I can see where she's coming from, I myself am a St. Louisan cut from similar cloth as Hull, just without any of the sports prowess, charisma or national acclaim. For me — and, indeed, many of my fellow St. Louis citizens — the idea of an all-you-can-drink bar provides a potential penny-saving opportunity.

And so it was with thriftiness in mind that I set myself out to get to the bottom of things in regard to St. Louis' most hotly contested new bar, purchasing a block of three hours (the most you can buy at once) on Open Concept's website with the express goal of seeing just how much alcohol I could shovel down my gullet for $30.

What follows is a complete detailing of my efforts.

Open Concept’s pay-by-the-hour structure attracted national attention, but can the model hold up to a systematic stress test? - DANIEL HILL
  • DANIEL HILL
  • Open Concept’s pay-by-the-hour structure attracted national attention, but can the model hold up to a systematic stress test?

Open Concept

I visited Open Concept on a Wednesday, arriving with a Riverfront Times editor/designated driver at 4:14 p.m. to begin my three-hour block of drinking. The bar, brightly lit by the afternoon sun, was fairly empty at such an early hour, with only one other pair of customers in attendance. Projectors and flat-screen TVs lined the walls, soundlessly playing the likes of Bad Boys II, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie and Real Housewives of Somewhere or Other while Erykah Badu's 1997 hit "On & On" oozed through the bar's speakers. A smoke detector with a low battery chirped overhead.

When I showed up, I was first asked to show my ID and to fill out a short profile on an iPad with my name and phone number, which are both integral to the bar's point-of-sale system. I'd purchased my time in advance, so all they had to do was pull up my order. After receiving a text message from the bar announcing that my time had begun, I was free to imbibe to my heart's content.

Open Concept's menu is split into two sections, one for $10-an-hour drinkers — comprising large-batch proprietary drinks with names such as "Lou Juice," "Mango Bliss" and "Rum Punch" as well as wine, beer and several traditional cocktails — and one for those willing to pony up $20 per hour, mostly made up of straight shots of higher-end liquor. At the end of the bar, a small cocktail station with several mixers and varieties of fruit afford those in the latter camp the ability to create their own drinks. (As thriftiness is paramount for this experiment, I obviously chose the former.)

After looking over the menu, I announced that I believed I could consume all twenty drinks on the $10 side before my time was up. I was greeted with skepticism.

"The good news is we have Pedialyte for the end," one bartender quipped.

I started at the top of the menu — the section filled with proprietary mixed drinks. A Lou Juice came first, and was fruity and sweet and tasty, followed by a Raspberry Bliss, which also leaned heavy on sugar and fruit elements and also tasted fine, and then a Mango Bliss, which I did not enjoy.

In the interest of expediency, I'll just rank the specialty drinks from best to worst: 1. Rum Punch 2. Lou Juice 3. Raspberry Bliss 4. Mango Bliss 5. Strawberry Wine Punch. (The bar was out of the sixth and final specialty drink, Vess and Vodka, so I was unable to rank it, but I presume it tastes a bit like a mixture of clear liquor and generic soda. Just a hunch.) I moved on from that portion of the menu and onto the traditional cocktails, beginning that section with a vodka and club soda, which went down easily enough.

At this point, I was six drinks in, and only about a half-hour had passed since my arrival, setting me up for an average of twelve drinks per hour. So far, so good. Amused with myself, I logged onto social media and posted a picture of the bar, along with a message:

"I've been here for 30 minutes and I've already had six drinks. There is so far no sign of concern from staff RE my health or well-being."

This would prove to be an ill-advised, catastrophic error. But more on that later.

As I moved on to my seventh drink, a vodka and cranberry, I began to hit a wall, consuming it much more slowly than the previous six. Midway through my beverage I removed my glasses and put my head in my hands while rubbing my eyes, according to my designated driver. Minutes later, a member of staff — LaKeySha Bosley, interestingly enough, a state representative in Missouri's 79th House district — approached the table and set a small cup filled with Pedialyte in front of me. It was 5:36 p.m. and I had officially been cut off. I was told I would not be served any more drinks until I was no longer "visibly intoxicated."

I tried to advocate for myself, insisting that I was a special breed of drunk who could safely consume twenty total drinks over the course of three hours. "Look at me, I'm enormous," I said.

But Bosley was unmoved. "We don't body shame here, so I'm gonna walk away," she replied.

As I twiddled my thumbs and waited to no longer be drunk enough to set off alarm bells for staff, something unexpected happened: Michael Butler himself, owner of the bar, recorder of deeds, strode in through the front door dressed in a blue suit. After speaking briefly with staff he turned and approached our table directly and addressed me by name, asking me if I was working on a story. Reader, I had been made.

It would seem that my posting on social media had come back to bite me in the ass. I'd later find that a mutual internet friend tagged Butler under my status. Presumably, Butler saw my post and headed up to the bar to make sure my health and well-being would be a priority going forward.

A fair amount of time had passed since I'd been cut off, and I was allowed to order the next drink on the menu, a whiskey and Coke, while Butler was there. Afforded the opportunity to talk with him on the record about his business, I hit start on a recorder and asked if he was concerned about over-serving guests.

"Absolutely. We take it very seriously," Butler replied. "That's why our bartenders are always watching. We make it a point of, the $20 option, the shots, we let people get two shots in a row but nothing more than that. We will generally tell people that they can have one shot and then one drink, almost back to back, but if you get two shots or one shot and then a drink we don't let you come back to the bar for some time. Our bartenders will tell that person, 'You're moving too fast.'"

"So I had six drinks in the first half hour," I replied.

"That's not normal," Butler said. "I will tell you something, you have been a very good customer to us if you bought three hours — and it sounds like you got your money's worth with six drinks."

I explained to Butler that my plan had been to consume the entire $10 menu over that three hours but his kindly staff's insistence that I cease drinking had thrown a wrench in the gears. He registered his disbelief that anyone would be able to physically complete such a task, to which I insisted that I'm a pro but conceded that it was probably wise to cut me off before I could do so.

"We're required to do that," Butler said. "She mentioned that at some point you became visibly intoxicated, and we're required by law to shut you off. That's how we do it. I'm glad the system is working."

I finished my whiskey and Coke — my eighth overall alcoholic beverage of the night — and tried mightily to talk my way into a ninth, but Butler would not be moved. As he left the building he waved his hand across his neck, giving the signal to staff that I was done for the night. I departed shortly after.

Later that evening, I peeked at social media and noticed that Butler had since shared my status from earlier in the night, with a message of his own:

"Our Open Bar Concept is not a challenge and should not be treated as such. Our experienced bartenders shut Mr. Hill off after he became visibly intoxicated. He was in our space with friends and had a designated driver. We applaud you Mr. Hill for thinking ahead about your safety."

STATS:

8 drinks

3 hours

$30

Just Bill’s doesn’t need your name or phone number to sell you cheap drinks. - DANIEL HILL
  • DANIEL HILL
  • Just Bill’s doesn’t need your name or phone number to sell you cheap drinks.

Just Bill's

Now, I'll grant that eight drinks for $30 is a pretty damn fine deal. But how does it stand up to a normal St. Louis-area bar? And would said normal bar be more or less likely to cut me off?

To get the answers to these burning questions, I made a trip to Just Bill's, an Overland bar where I've spent more than a few foggy-memoried nights over the years.

Just Bill's, or "Exclusively William's" in the parlance of some regulars, is the quintessential dive-bar experience. Located in the center of scenic downtown Overland and flanked by a quaint little diner on one side and a sandwich shop on the other, the beloved north-county watering hole exists utterly and completely without pretense, serving as a sanctuary for those dedicated drinkers who just want to tilt back a few without dealing with the hassles that come with pretending to be fancy.

In other words, I've seen people blow snot-rockets onto the carpet. It's my kind of place.

I stopped by the bar on a Monday with an accomplice again in tow. Upon our arrival at 3:44 p.m., I spotted a pair of plaid boxer shorts on the sidewalk just outside the front door.

As we headed inside, the bartender remarked on the abandoned unmentionables, saying they'd been there when she arrived and that she'd opted not to pick them up because she thought it was funny.

"When there's underwear on the ground, you know somebody had a good time the night before," she said.

One of the televisions behind the bar was playing a fistfight between a couple of Nascar racers on what seemed to be a loop. Another simply showed a race that was already in progress. On this afternoon, the bar's TouchTunes jukebox churned out a steady stream of alternative rock, from Smashing Pumpkins to Foo Fighters to Kid Rock, though I've heard everything from Deicide to Waka Flocka Flame to the theme song from Friends on prior visits.

Upon arrival I promptly ordered ten drinks: one bucket of Busch beers, two pickle shots (vodka and pickle juice) and two whiskey and Cokes. They were all handed to me at once within about five minutes.

At first, the bartender tried to give the drinks to me and my associate, but I corrected her and explained that they were all for me. She laughed and handed me a receipt to sign, with my total coming to just $17. I tipped $10 on top of that, making for $27 for ten drinks — already cheaper than Open Concept (and indeed, among the cheapest in town — take note, fellow thrifty drunks.) Within a half-hour, both shots, two beers and one whiskey and Coke were already down the hatch.

I took my time from that point, relatively speaking, as I knew I had little further to prove here. I finished my last Busch at 5:40 p.m., just under two hours after my arrival.

The experience was enlightening. What critics of Open Concept fail to consider is that the bar's business model actually disincentivizes staff from overserving its patrons. The fact of the matter is, you're only gonna pay a set rate for your time, and every beverage they serve to you during that time is actually money out of their pockets. It's a needle-threading game, then, wherein it's in the bar's best interest to serve you just enough to keep you happy without going too far and hurting their bottom line. When it comes to the top-shelf liquor options this is probably especially the case.

Your average bar, on the other hand, is financially incentivized to sell you all the alcohol you can consume while still being able to stand. As God intended it.

Before leaving, I ordered one final pickle shot, just to see if I was served. Unsurprisingly, I was.

STATS:

11 drinks

2 hours

$32

The ‘Bees serves dollar drinks and cheap apps until you literally can’t take any more. - DANIEL HILL
  • DANIEL HILL
  • The ‘Bees serves dollar drinks and cheap apps until you literally can’t take any more.

Applebee's

With trips to both a standard-bearer north-county bar and Cherokee Street's revolution in inebriation entered into the record, a clearer picture begins to emerge of the triumphs and tribulations inherent in each — but rigorous scientific study of this matter demands a third point of reference so as to triangulate our findings. Luckily, Applebee's serves Dollaritas.

For those hopelessly unskilled at deciphering a portmanteau, a Dollarita is a margarita that costs only a dollar. Applebee's debuted the preposterously inexpensive drink in October 2017 to combat millennials' apparent fast-casual-chain-killing bloodlust following a tough fiscal year of restaurant closures and declining revenues. The move seemed largely predicated on the notion that the lack of financial security and upward mobility that tends to result in younger generations' refusal to spend what little money they have on overpriced, subpar food in a chain setting could be overcome with dirt-cheap booze. Which, OK, is not the craziest gambit I've ever heard.

So it makes sense, then, that I include the 'Bees (I like to call it "the 'Bees") in my search for the thriftiest buzz in town.

Now, I'll concede that this particular experiment is not exactly a new one. In my Dollarita research, I found that a Vice writer had hit a New York-area Applebee's in July 2018 in an effort to see if it is possible to get drunk off of its dollar drinks. That month's drink was the $1 L.I.T., or Long Island iced tea — Applebee's apparently rotates out the name and specific elements of its bottom-shelf mixed swill on a monthly basis — and the writer in question declared herself drunk after just three of them, because Vice writers are posers. In addition, her research found that this particular Applebee's cuts its customers off after three drinks, at the insistence of its franchisee, because New York-area Applebee's restaurants are evidently also posers. In short, I felt there was room for further experimentation, despite a friend's suggestion that all that would be gained from this trip would be a ferocious case of Dollarrhea.

My designated driver and I arrived at a St. Louis-area Neighborhood Grill & Bar™ on a Sunday at 5:35 p.m., whereupon I ordered a Dollarita. I was told that this month's cheap boozy drink is called a Vampire, a bright purple concoction consisting of rum, passion fruit, dragon fruit, strawberry and pineapple juice (according to the official Applebee's website, it is also supposed to be served with a plastic set of fangs, but I never got those, which is disappointing). I drank two in ten minutes. They tasted exactly like you'd expect a watered-down fruity rum drink to taste, which is to say, fine.

I opted at this point to try to take it easy, fearing that I'd be cut off just like Vice was. I turned and struck up a conversation with the man sitting next to me, an older fellow with a mustache and glasses, a thin build, a pocket knife clipped to his belt and a sweatshirt that read "COOLEST UNCLE IN THE WORLD." He had a set of souvenir photos from St. Louis' new Ferris wheel sitting on the bar in front of him and had visited it with family earlier that day before leaving them at home and heading up to Applebee's for a drink.

"Everyone was asleep when I left," he said. "I thought I could sneak out for a beer, but my daughter has other plans."

With that, the man quickly downed the latter half of his beverage and took his leave, wishing me a happy Sunday on his way out.

Confident that I'd now cemented my status as a run-of-the-mill Applebee's barfly rather than a man trying to see how many $1 drinks he could pound, I got back to the task at hand and ordered a third Vampire, which was delivered to me at 5:55 p.m. Eleven minutes later, I ordered a fourth and crossed my fingers that my luck wouldn't run out as Vice's had.

To my delight, the bartender didn't bat an eye and promptly brought me my drink. As I sipped it victoriously, Chumbawumba's 1997 hit "Tubthumping" came on over the stereo, providing the perfect soundtrack as I rewrote the song's lyrics in my head to better fit the matter at hand: "He drinks a Vampire drink, he drinks a Vampire drink. He drinks a Vampire drink, he drinks a Vampire drink!"

Oh shit, how about some apps?! A Classic Combo Platter™ would be the perfect complement to my current state of chain-restaurant alcoholic bliss, with spinach dip and boneless wings and a quesadilla and mozzarella sticks pairing nicely with the purple booze water I was already enjoying. I ordered and ate greedily upon my food's arrival, downing drinks all the while, and for a moment I wondered why anyone would spend their time drinking anywhere else.

But then, as the one-hour mark rolled around and I started in on drink seven, I began to hit a wall, as the oh-so-sugary beverages joined forces with the greasy chain fare in my stomach to stage a rebellion. I did what I could to push through, downing two more Vampires by 7:10 p.m. and ordering one final drink in order to make it to ten.

The Vampire Drink. - DANIEL HILL
  • DANIEL HILL
  • The Vampire Drink.

But there was no going further, and that tenth drink would remain untouched. Though my head only felt moderately buzzed, my guts were in full distress. It would not be possible for me to consume any more apps or beverages. To again paraphrase 1997's favorite band of anarchist one-hit wonders, I got knocked down, but there was no chance I was getting up again.

I hastily asked for the check, and when I got it, I saw to my confusion that I'd only been charged for five Vampires. I did not notice, in my addled state, that I'd also been charged for a brisket quesadilla, an order of chicken parmesan and a side salad, whereas my sampler platter was nowhere to be found. In short, I'd been given the wrong bill, but I wouldn't realize that until days later when I went over my notes and photos from the visit. I wrote in a $10 tip on the bill, which was around $40, but when I looked at my bank statement days later I found that I'd only been charged a total of $34.12. I still have no earthly idea what all that's about.

We left at 7:15 p.m., less than two hours after our arrival. My designated driver dropped me off at home, where I promptly got to work vomiting excessively into a travel-sized charcoal grill I'd forgotten was sitting by my back door. I spent the rest of the night curled in a ball in pain.

STATS:

9 drinks

1 hour and 40 minutes

$34.12, apparently

Our preliminary analysis: Hill, still undercover as a human hotdog, was just fine without that final Bud Select. - THEO WELLING
  • THEO WELLING
  • Our preliminary analysis: Hill, still undercover as a human hotdog, was just fine without that final Bud Select.

Return to Open Concept

With all of this data coming from various boozy experiments at venues across town, you would think that I'd be zeroing in on a conclusion. But something stuck in my craw about my visit to Open Concept. Namely, I realized it is completely impossible for me to confidently put forth my experience as one that could serve as useful to the drinking public at large, on account of the fact that I was shamefully made as a reporter due to my own foolish actions on social media.

But what could be done? I'd typed my name out on an iPad when I created my bar profile during that visit — I'd even been addressed by name by the owner himself. On top of that, it seemed unlikely that staff would forget the face of the man personally cut off by their boss when the bar was virtually empty, especially given that a return trip would have to happen less than two weeks after the first in order to make deadline. How could I properly continue my research when I'd be so easily outed as a media spy?

Luckily, the entirety of my experimentation was occurring in the latter weeks of October, in the run up to Halloween, a.k.a. the only time of the year that it is socially acceptable to go out in public wearing a disguise.

I decided that a return trip was absolutely mandatory, and planned it for a Friday night, when the bar would presumably be most bustling, allowing me to more properly blend in.

Perhaps antithetical to fitting in, but imperative for concealing my identity, I also decided that I would complete this visit clad in a hot dog costume that I'd purchased for Halloween a couple years ago, with a shapeless drape to conceal my memorably enormous body and red face paint in order to properly prevent me from being recognized. I showed up with my designated driver and two other accomplices, all of us dressed in costumes in order to further throw staff off of my scent.

We arrived at 7:40 p.m. to a dramatically different scene than the one I'd experienced on our first visit. The bar was packed wall to wall, with dimmed lights and more of a club vibe, accentuated by the occasional bottle set on tables that looked as though they'd been reserved in advance. A DJ played a mix of R&B and hip-hop in the corner while the bar's patrons danced and mingled throughout the space. One large projector played what looked to be a Die Hard movie, while a second was used by patrons to play Mortal Kombat. It seemed more likely I'd be able to fly undetected here, in spite of the ostentatious nature of my costume.

But then, trouble came. At the door checking IDs was none other than Butler himself, along with Bosley, the same staffer that had so kindly brought me Pedialyte on my first visit. It seemed extremely unlikely that I'd be able to gain access to this building without either of them figuring out who I was — I'd spent a fair amount of time speaking with both of them. I was surely doomed before I even stepped foot in the door.

My fears seemed confirmed when Butler pointed at me, my eyes locking with his behind the identity-concealing sunglasses I was wearing indoors and at night. But rather than the "gotcha" that I expected, Butler then pointed me to Bosley and indicated that I should go to her to check in (he was at that time contending with a line). I stepped over to Bosley, all but holding my breath while she looked at my ID, certain I was made. When it was time to enter my name into her iPad, I crossed my fingers and typed "Dan Hill" into the field, hoping against hope the omitted "iel" would provide just enough cover to slip in undetected.

To my great surprise, my gambit paid off. I was promptly ushered through the front door and into the venue — where my accomplices and I were literally the only people in costume — with no mention of my previous visit. I immediately headed to the bar.

In this setting, Open Concept's business model began to make a lot more sense than it had on my first visit. The line for the bar was long, but moved fairly briskly, as the bartenders did not have to contend with the payment process of the bar experience, instead just doling out drinks in exchange for the customer's name. At the same time, the line was just long enough that, in order to manage the high rate of consumption I had enjoyed during the first half-hour of my initial visit, I'd need to spend my entire time standing in line, then immediately file to the back again upon being served. That prospect seemed both untenable and wholly unenjoyable.

When I got to the front, I resumed the drink-everything-on-the-menu mission I'd been forced to abandon before. Next on the list was a whiskey sour, followed by a Manhattan, an Old Fashioned, a lime Margarita and a gin and tonic. All tasted as expected. I also doubled back and got that Vess and Vodka I'd been unable to try last time due to it being out of stock — turns out I was right in predicting it would taste like clear liquor and generic soda. I finished those drinks over the course of an hour.

There were no unoccupied tables, so I was a little concerned that I might be dubbed "visibly intoxicated" more easily than if I was sitting. But whether due to my sure-footedness or the staff's inattention, it didn't come up during my first hour. I prefer to think it was the former.

Butler moved throughout the bar, walking within inches of me on more than one occasion. Each time I turned my bun-clad body away so as to avoid being detected. Meanwhile, Bosley remained on door duty, so I avoided going near the door.

One of my accomplices — the RFT editor who had accompanied me on my first trip — did not avoid the door, though, and she was soon made. Bosley recognized her — in a costume that was spare and mostly involved a wig so as to change the appearance of her hair — when she pointed out a spill to staff, with safety being her concern. She then texted me that she had been spotted and said she'd avoid standing by me so I hopefully wouldn't suffer the same fate.

Meanwhile, the time I paid for ran out. Convinced that I would be easily outed as that troublemaker from before, I'd only bought one hour for this go-around. Worse still, additional time had to be purchased from Bosley up front. The fact that she'd been stationed there throughout the night rather than at the bar had played to my advantage, as I had only interacted with her one time, rather than several as with the bartenders (though I was also strategically going back and forth between bartenders throughout the night so as to minimize my face time with any one of them). Especially after my associate was made, the need to purchase another hour could easily be my undoing.

But again to my surprise, it wound up not being a problem. I bought another hour undetected and headed back to the bar, where I was now onto the wine portion of the menu. I did not enjoy the cabernet or the moscato, that section's only two beverages, but I'm not a wine guy. The beer section was next, comprising Bud products. I liked the Budweiser more than the Bud Light, obviously, but to be honest, I don't like either of them.

This brought me to the very end of the menu — my hard-fought victory in sight, just over the horizon, only a Bud Select (gross) standing between me and triumph.

But then, as I waited in line once more, I got a text from Open Concept: My time was up. That last hour had flown by, and if I was going to drink the entire menu as I'd planned, I'd need to purchase yet another.

I decided not to. It's interesting, and sort of a testament to Open Concept's business model's self-policing nature, that I opted not to plunk down another $10 just to achieve my goal. Were this Just Bill's, I would definitely have bought a final beer, just to say I'd finished the whole menu. Hell, even in the throes of gastrointestinal distress at Applebee's I'd still at least ordered a tenth drink, even though I didn't touch it. But $10 for a fucking Bud Select? There's no way in hell.

My accomplices and I headed out into the cool October night upon completion of our mission, red face paint running into my eyes and foam hot dog bun on my back. My designated driver delivered me safely to my home, where my portable barbecue grill thankfully went unused.

STATS:

10 drinks

2 hours

$50.14 (I'd been unable to tip on my first trip, as I'd bought my time online in advance and had no cash, so I overtipped dramatically on this visit.)

Conclusion

In total, I consumed 38 alcoholic beverages in four trips to three venues over the course of nine combined hours, and if there's one main conclusion that can be drawn from my experience seeking out the thriftiest buzz in town, it is this: Applebee's is poison. Do not drink their dollar drinks. For the love of God.

Aside from that, I fail to see what all the fuss is about regarding Open Concept. When compared to a traditional bar, or even a chain restaurant, its all-you-can-drink model ultimately ends with roughly the same number of beverages consumed — and that's when a person is even deliberately stress-testing it. At no point in time, during either trip I made to the bar, did I see anyone that looked to have been overserved. Honestly, I was probably the drunkest person in the building both times — and I wasn't even that drunk.

I mean hell, I bet I could have drunk the whole $20 side of the menu in one sitting if I'd really tried. Bartender?

Daniel Hill is the RFT's music editor and resident alcohol enthusiast. Follow him on Twitter at @rftmusic.

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