With help from an emeritus member of WashU’s Board of Trustees and our dean’s eye for British culture, the Knight Center has opened a new watering hole for members of the entire campus community—at least, those of drinking age.
The Bear Public House, off the Knight Center lobby, was officially dedicated on October 2, 2019, with a toast to Bob and Kathleen O’Loughlin, whose financial contribution made the project possible. Former trustee Bob O’Loughlin, CEO of Lodging Hospitality Management Corp., also collaborated with Dean Mark P. Taylor on the design.
The Bear becomes another community meeting place in the building in addition to the EMBA Pub, long the scene for late-evening study groups and decompression time after class for executive MBAs. That space, tucked on the building’s fourth floor, is on tap for a makeover as an American sports bar commemorating the 1904 Olympic Games at Francis Field.
Meanwhile, The Bear is modeled after a pub Dean Taylor recalls in Warwickshire, England, the county of his birth—and that of William Shakespeare.
Roots in the UK
That UK pub gets its name—The Bear and Ragged Staff—from the iconography of the county’s official flag and coat of arms. The Knight Center’s new pub incorporates similar imagery into its sign.
Here at Olin’s new pub, overstuffed chairs and leather sofas divide the room into cozy nooks for conversation, with high-topped tables tucked into corners and along the walls. The gray marble of the bar contrasts with the dark wood-plank floors while an antique clock ticks in the corner and busts of Shakespeare and his contemporaries adorn the window sills. Copies of the only known oil paintings of the Bard taken in his lifetime hang on the walls.
“We wanted to make it more of a cross-campus draw. We want people to come to the Knight Center from outside the business school, too,” Taylor said, describing the concept for the new pub. “We wanted a warm environment.”
The idea began when Taylor had a conversation with Bob O’Loughlin, emeritus member of the university’s Board of Trustees and CEO of Lodging Hospitality Management Corp., a hotel and attraction builder and operator. His firm is involved in building the new aquarium at St. Louis’ Union Station.
Vision for two pubs
Taylor and O’Loughlin shared a vision for a state-of-the-art, welcoming and warm space in the Knight Center. O’Loughlin agreed to fund the construction and consult on the project. They both agreed on the English pub theme “partly because I’m English and partly because Bob owns one,” Taylor said, referring to the Cheshire Hotel’s Fox and Hounds pub.
Before proceeding, however, Taylor had to be convinced the new pub would be self-sustaining. “One of the things we like to do is practice what we teach,” he said. “It’s a business and we want it to support the university and support itself. It spills over into our identity. We want it to be international, world class.”
Between the idea’s conception in April 2017 and the pub’s recent opening, construction has moved in fits-and-starts to minimize disruption while students and visitors were using the Knight Center. Now that The Bear is open, Taylor said, WashU Olin will invest in a facelift for the EMBA Pub.
“We need it for private events or, when the EMBA class is here, we want to have it for them,” he said. The American sports bar theme would complement the first-floor English pub and “it celebrates something for which the university should be known for.”
The Bear Public House is open from 4-10 p.m. Monday through Friday and features new menus with curated drink and food choices that reflect both traditional and contemporary creations by the Knight Center’s culinary teams.
Pictured above: Dean Mark P. Taylor, right, offers a token of appreciation—a miniature Bear pub sign—to Bob and Kathleen O’Loughlin, benefactors of the new space.