You’d never know, just by setting foot in Lone Wolf Lounge, all the resistance they faced just to open.
“We were one of the first bars in this neighborhood, and there was some resistance to that,” says co-owner Andrew Ripley. “But at the end of the day, I think a lot of the people who weren’t sure about us are actually regulars here now.”
Lone Wolf Lounge is housed inside an unassuming beige building on the corner of 41st and Lincoln. That’s already a point for Lone Wolf—when Ripley and Tom Worley were in the planning stages, neighbors weren’t sure of the crowd the bar would bring. In that way, Lone Wolf is sort of like a secret handshake—aside from the white board sign out front, there’s nothing to indicate this is a bar.
Lone Wolf proved all the critics wrong, anyway.
“For the most part, people were excited about it, because there’s been a shift of people moving down to this neighborhood,” says Ripley. “That’s why we wanted to do it here. There’s so many people that used to live downtown and work downtown that can’t go there anymore because of the vacation rentals and stuff, so they’re moving down here. We wanted something that was an anchor; a locally-owned bar in this neighborhood.”
Before opening the physical bar, Ripley and Worley hosted pop-ups all across the city to garner enthusiasm and support.
“People would be like, ‘When are you opening that bar?’” remembers Worley. “We kept the engine primed. People would show up and be like, ‘I remember you from the Roadhouse.’ It’s just that one little engagement and all of a sudden they’re regulars now.”
Ripley estimates that he knows about 95 percent of the bar patrons at all times.
“That’s a testament to the quality of the service and the quality of the product and how you present it,” says Worley. “You can get a two-dollar beer or you can get an eight-dollar cocktail. Whatever you’re drinking, there’s no judgment or pretention.”
Worley and Ripley are both veterans of the bartending scene, which allowed them to cherry-pick their staff from people they’ve met through the scene.
“We’re lucky to have one of the best staffs—they’re all people who have worked with us at other places while we do things,” says Ripley. “Our job isn’t to bartend as much anymore as it is to guide the business. We sill bartend a lot, but it’s less and less our job.”
Now, Worley and Ripley can just focus on serving good product, but that isn’t too big of a chore, either.
“If we don’t drink it, we don’t serve it,” says Worley. “Literally, I’ll drink any beer in that case.” – Rachael Flora