Tucked behind Zayka Indian Cuisine on South Jefferson Avenue is the latest creation of serial entrepreneur Josh Widner and business partner Jim Wilson: Best of Luck Beer Hall. The restaurant and bar is expansive, bright and unexpected from its unassuming entrance. The space is peppered with arcade and board games, which center around an artificial turf field for customers to play bocce ball, beanbag toss and washers. Behind a long marble bar, the back wall is lined with over 30 beers on tap and a rotating selection of draft cocktails.
“We want to encourage Springfield to hang out together, drink a little bit and have some food and play games,” Widner said of Best of Luck, which opened in early February. “We’re trying to bring another beer atmosphere to Springfield.”
He said the name Best of Luck is a nod to camaraderie in sports, and the design is a riff on a Scandinavian beer hall. Widner likes that the space is secluded.
“We don’t want to lose that allure,” he said, “but we definitely want to be seen.”
Visibility is the primary focus through next year for this, his fifth, bar and restaurant. Widner and Wilson co-own Good Spirits Concepts LLC, which serves as the umbrella organization for Best of Luck and its other concepts: Scotch & Soda, The Golden Girl Rum Club and Cherry Picker Package and Fare. Widner first opened Scotch & Soda, with partners, in 2012.
Widner said the Best of Luck team, including chef Clint McCann, has developed a new menu to debut in September. It keeps fan favorites like the chicken sandwich, burger and brats, but adds loaded fries and a couple salads, as well as fried bologna and Italian hoagie sandwiches.
“The evolution of a new place is trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t,” he said, noting a goal is to grow Best of Luck’s lunch crowd. “Lunch is the final frontier. It’s a hard fight for new places.”
This career path was not Widner’s first choice. He got a degree in music, but the job he secured after graduation fell through, and at the height of the Great Recession, he scrambled to find work. His brother, Rogan Howitt, got him a job as a barback at the MudLounge.
“I just fell in love with it. It wasn’t something I reached for. It was organic, which I’m very thankful for,” he said, adding with a laugh: “I still don’t know how the hell I got here.”
Howitt now serves as Good Spirits’ beverage director and co-owns The Golden Girl Rum Club.
For Widner, the restaurant game is about creating environments for people to make meaningful connections. As a hands-on owner, he said he checks in with each bar and eatery daily. He can expand his concepts to other markets, like he did with Scotch & Soda in Bentonville, Arkansas, but his passion is here.
“Our focus is Springfield; our hearts are in Springfield,” he said. “To take these to other markets feels like work more than anything. Here it feels like home.”
The Bark Yard dog park and bar concept launched; Charity Fent Cake Design LLC moved; and a pair of business owners collaborated on opening The Hidden Hut LLC.
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