At the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Covid restrictions limited the seats available for passengers looking to have a cocktail, and there were long lines to get into bars for a drink. The bar at Rel’Lish Burger Lounge was closed for seating and inside tables were limited to about 20 seats.
With that in mind, Seattle chef and Rel’Lish owner Kathy Casey devised a quick way for passengers to have a drink: Shot Bar. “We took our to-go counter and transformed it into a walk-up bar featuring all shots,” Casey says. “I made a fun new logo and designed a new digital menu for that area.”
That was the initial vision for Shot Bar, which opened in March 2021 and is a BevX Award winner for Best Single-Concept Hospitality Beverage Program. Since guests have their masks off for a brief time to down a shooter, the concept addressed getting a drink quick and easy during Covid restrictions in a fun way, Casey notes.
“We offered a single shot or a double from a variety of eight spirits, with a little something for everyone from Hornitos Crystalino tequila to Skrewball peanut butter whiskey, served in red mini Solo shot cups,” Casey says. The red solo cup theme brings fun memories for many people, she adds.
When crafting the spirit list for Shot Bar, Casey collaborated with the company’s lead bartenders on what they think passengers from all over would likely want to order most. They also included a few local favorites for a regional flair, such as the popular Northwest Heritage brown sugar bourbon.
“We also had logoed souvenir red Solo shot cups made and guests could buy their shot and the cup to take home,” Casey says. “The cups were branded #ShotBarSeattle. Shot Bar went crazy viral on social media with thousands and thousands of posts and shares and likes. Jimmy Fallon also did a monologue on Shot Bar on The Tonight Show.”
Dawn Hunter, director of commercial management at SEA airport, notes that “2020 was difficult for our airport and the businesses here due to the pandemic and its impacts on travel. It is exciting to embrace innovations like Shot Bar to continue to create positive experiences for travelers during their journey.”
So what does the future of Shot Bar look like? “I would love to expand my brands into other locations and airports,” says Casey, who has owned airport restaurants for several years including Rel’Lish Burger Lounge, Dish D’Lish and Lucky Louie Fish Shack.
“Food and beverage concept development is what my company, Food Studios-Liquid Kitchen, specializes in,” Casey adds. “For my next location of Rel’Lish or a new bar, I absolutely would add a Shot Bar component or area, as it is the perfect thing for a busy airport location.”