Argus Bar + Patio aims to attract educated drinkers with craft cocktails
Here’s how Scott Baldwin tells it: If you have a taste for well drinks, your haunt isn’t Argus Bar + Patio.
“We don’t do bad well booze,” he said frankly. Baldwin, who owns the bar, generally is straight-up. “And you’re not going to get a pitcher of booze here; we don’t even sell pitchers of beer. We get intelligent drinkers coming here who know spirits and cocktails and know what they want.”
That’s always been Baldwin’s vision. When the CN&R first met him in 2013, he had run into a roadblock while designing the bar on West Second Street. His request to transfer the liquor license previously held by the Towne Lounge was met skeptically by some in the downtown business community. Would it be just another college bar?
Baldwin was adamant it wouldn’t—that Argus would offer craft cocktails, not power hours, and be a responsible neighbor. “For us to hold up our end of the bargain, we have to look at the quantity [of alcohol] being served, the quality of what’s being served, and the rate at which it’s being served. That’s exactly what the plan was and [how] it’s been executed.”
The Argus has a style more common to bigger cities. Consider the brick-and-walnut walls, the bar with blue backlighting, and a towering wall of ivy on the outdoor patio. Lead bartenders Brendan McNerney and Mike Dolfini add to the aesthetic with their fancy duds and neat beards. More important, they’re exceptionally knowledgeable. Go ahead and ask them about the menu. They helped make it.
“Each one has their own flair and influence,” Baldwin said. “I oversee what makes it, but, that being said, the drinks in general are done in-house.”
Even given all that, Baldwin insists he hasn’t taken cues from big-city bars—or anywhere at all.
“I live creatively in my own mind. I don’t like outside influence. I don’t even watch TV,” he said. “When I dream something up, it’s pretty organic.”
He does acknowledge that the upscale vibes fall in with other new-ish downtown drinking establishments, such as B Street Public House and The Winchester Goose. And the similarities extend beyond being swanky; there’s quite a bit of crossover with both the clientele and employees.
“I’d say a rising tide raises all ships,” he said. He considers it a positive movement. “It’s good for the community and it matches the future.”
By that, Baldwin means he’s anticipating that the demographic of Chico attracted to Argus will only grow in coming years.
“We’re seeing a lot of tech companies move into Chico, lots of professionals who are educated and care about what they drink,” he said. “That’s where we fit in.”