Fort Worth is having a spring break moment. Newish bar the Whiskey Garden invites bikini-clad drinkers to take a dip at a spot that feels more Cancun than Cowtown. A pool bar in Fort Worth? Naturally, I had a few questions.
Is this legal?
You bet it is. Clayton Grunewald, one of the Whiskey Garden's four co-owners, says before he and his business partners planned the Whiskey Garden, the city of Fort Worth had never zoned a bar with a pool in it. They worked with the city's Department of Consumer Health to set the precedent for how to build a pool in a bar and ensure it's up to code.
The pool measures 4 feet down at its deepest point, and it's 25 feet long by 15 feet wide. "It's not massive," Grunewald says.
"It's a giant hot tub, if you will."
On weekends, Whiskey Garden has 10 bartenders, six security guards, a manager and three cocktail waitresses working the bar. Off-duty police officers patrol the premises for added security. The staff is not allowed to drink while on the job, Grunewald says, so his plan is that at least 20 sober adults can take action at the first sign of trouble. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, the bar's staff is a bit lighter: four to six bartenders, two servers, an off duty officer, and one or two security guards.
What happens if someone gets hurt?
Ask this instead: What happens if you get hurt at any bar? The bar has insurance and may be liable if its bartenders over-serve patrons, but ultimately people are also likely liable for themselves.
Whiskey Garden also has a "members only" sign posted by the front door. Membership isn't paid; Grunewald says members are simply people the bar staff knows. The bouncer gives these people priority to enter Whiskey Garden when the place starts to get packed, which Grunewald says gives his staff control over the rowdiness of the bar.
Though some patrons may be frustrated with having to wait in line while members walk past the bouncer wait free, Cindy Vasquez of Fort Worth's city manager's office says no one has filed a complaint regarding Whiskey Garden's members list policy.
What are the chances I'll be pushed into the pool?
From what I witnessed, your chances are low. Most people who end up in the pool walked in willingly. Still, it's not out of the realm of possibility. A woman was pushed in during my first visit to the bar and, though she was unharmed, she was less than thrilled about the surprise soak. The saltwater chlorinated pool doesn't have a regulated capacity (the outdoor patio area and indoor bars do, but the pool does not), but Grunewald says it has never been a sardine can on even its fullest night.
Poolgoers may not be the ones to worry about. As the night wears on and the bar becomes more crowded, the space around the pool thins drastically. People sway their hips to a DJ playing house music as they mingle around the pool, so I'd keep an eye out for the swaying patrons at the pool's edge. If anyone is going to accidentally knock you into the water, my bet is it'd be them.
To play it safe, take a seat with friends in one of the cozy cabanas a few feet away.
How often is the pool, um, cleaned?
As with any pool, there's a chance someone may, well, relieve themselves in the water instead of drying off and heading to the bathroom. Whiskey Garden has a high-tech solution for that. "We have this [equipment] that adds chemicals, so if someone has been drinking all day and happens to pee in the pool, it reads the chlorine level, the acid level, and it modifies that," Grunewald says. Also, a pool cleaning crew tests the pH balance of the pool and cleans Wednesday and Saturday mornings.
What do I wear?
The Whiskey Garden doesn't have a dress code, but it seems like everyone in attendance wears an unofficial uniform of daisy dukes, wedges and tiny tank tops. (Men: Shorts and a T-shirt will do.) Though swimsuits aren't required attire for the pool, Grunewald says he might implement a dress code after a recent event involving a group of Englishmen:
"They see the pool and they're immediately like, 'Oh, I didn't bring a bathing suit,' so they all drop down into their underwear and jump into the pool," Grunewald recounts. "One particular gentleman was in tighty-whities. He gets out [of the pool] and you can see everything. Nobody was offended by any means, but I can't have that."
My suggestion? Stick with swim trunks and bikinis.
The Whiskey Garden is located at 2800 Bledsoe in Fort Worth. It's open 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Wednesday through Friday and 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.