A riverside bar puts its patio to work with a new all-you-can-eat, open bar concept
This article is part of our “10 Bars for 2020” feature. Read more stories of bars that are defining this moment in drinking.
Who can deny the allure of drinking in sweeping Mississippi River views from a spacious patio with a cocktail in hand after being cooped up all spring? Psycho Suzi’s ticketed “All-Inclusive Food & Open Bar Vacation Experience” aims to offer just such a respite from the pandemic, so we decided to experience it firsthand to find out if it delivers.
We reserved our 90-minute time slot on a Saturday evening for a non-refundable $5 deposit. The rest we paid at the door for a grand total of $50 per person. After our wristbands were secured, we received paper menus that outlined the logistics. We were a little disoriented and so a staff member directed us to the bar where we ordered drinks. Then we seated ourselves at a table corresponding to our wristband color and scanned through the rest of the instructions to make sure we had it all down. We ordered food with the bartenders, who entered everything into an iPad and told us that it would be delivered to our table.
Psycho Suzi’s requires a mask to enter the patio and highly encourages one as guests move throughout the space. Strict limits on seating made it relatively easy to avoid bumping into other guests, most of whom were wearing masks, as we walked back and forth from our table to order at the bar.
Tucked underneath the cozy thatched-roof above our table, we savored the peaceful river views along with our food and sweet, indulgent drinks. The “Suzi Quatro”—a pizza with spinach, oregano, sundried tomato, and roasted garlic—was well-executed, the tater tots were standard, and the fried cheese curds were a little limp and over-salted. Dessert was a “Dole Whip,” which tasted like one of their mixed drinks had been run through a soft-serve machine.
We missed the part in our instructions guide about food needing to be ordered within the first hour, which was fine, we shrugged—we probably didn’t need that second order of tater tots anyway. Don’t be late, because your table is turned promptly when your time is up. Although this was communicated to us, we still felt jolted when a staff member came to our table and, without a word since our five-minute warning, began to sweep our leftovers into a garbage can. (No doggy bags.)
Ninety minutes might not be enough to feel like you’ve escaped the pandemic, but it really depends. How many drinks would you need to feel like you got your money’s worth? How fast can you read the instructions manual and digest your food? We found ourselves struggling with the tension between enjoying the experience and making sure we squeezed every ounce of value out of our ticket price.
Bars can get the benefit of the doubt when they roll out a new concept these days. Collectively, we don’t have a good template for addressing the economic difficulties impacting the service industry as well as the safety concerns of our current time. But in our pursuit of a relaxing escape, we found ourselves discomfited at their version of the very tiki theme that is meant to convey playful escapism.
What are we to make of the image of a white woman in a leopard-print onesie taking a chainsaw to a Mori-style wooden statue on their website’s “About” page? Or a drink with a name like “Polynesian Paralysis” described as, “A screaming desire not to work, nor do anything that requires any substantial effort either physical or mental.” Oh, my. While the menu tries to preempt a certain strain of criticism—for example proclaiming one cocktail as “completely inauthentic, but who gives a crap?”—we would have been more inclined to relax at Suzi’s if they did give a crap.
We all know that a strong drink can make things a bit blurry but it’s important for businesses to focus on creating spaces that are clearly respectful of everyone. It will take some reevaluating, but if Suzi’s can show creativity and resilience in their new business model, then we’d like to believe that they can become the fun, tropical, kitschy bar where we want to make our escape: an all-inclusive experience that is truly inclusive.