When Russell Davis set out on his latest venture, he had his eyes—and his mind—on one thing: to create a culture and community for people, for intellectuals, to gather. The result, Davis says, is Academia, a bar concept recently opened this fall in Austin’s warehouse district.
“There are these great bars with great energy around the world that can be both a place where intellectuals are sitting around [debating] one moment, and the next [the same] people are partying, having a great time,” said Davis. “I wanted to recreate that.”
Davis attributes Academia’s ability to recreate such an atmosphere to the bar’s focus on all the senses, not just one. To do so, the former Bar Rescue star said he dove into psychological and cognitive research, learning how different scents can calm someone down; how a song’s beat per minute can change a room’s energy; how lighting can make someone feel confident.
While some bar owners may choose to keep such elements under wraps, hoping to create a natural experience for customers, Davis decided otherwise. Academia proudly announced its plans to incorporate the latest innovations in sound, light, olfactory, and seating to the public prior to its opening.
“I like the fact that [customers] are going to know that we’re doing it before hand,” he stated. “While they’re [at Academia], they won’t realize what’s going on.”
Davis hopes guests don’t misinterpret such efforts as manipulating, but instead see them as a decision to provide an all-encompassing experience.
According to Davis, patrons can expect to find a list of cocktails that are uncomplicated, yet thoughtfully crafted, revolving around the notion of complex simplicity. In other words, using juices that have oxidized for the appropriate amount of time. Old school classics turned upside down; obscure cocktails that “need to be the next generation of classics;” and a series of cocktails crafted by the Academia team, none of whom are from Austin.
When asked about his hopes for Academia, Davis is adamant on creating a welcoming space for everyone, and any conversation. He envisions intellectual conversations like those had by Hemingway and Hunter S. Thompson taking place, but also sees the bar becoming an educational platform, too.
“For me, it’s not necessarily going after a certain type of drinker, but turning a drinker into a certain type of drinker—that academic style drinker,” explained Davis.
Through thoughtfully crafted cocktails, a knowledgeable staff of bartenders, and a touch of enlightened hospitality, Davis hopes to teach, possibly educate patrons on how drinking is supposed to be done.