First Look: Chillax Tap & Co. bottle shop and bar in St. Peters
The second location of bottle shop and bar Chillax Tap & Co. is in soft opening mode beginning today, Tuesday, March 29, at 1320 Triad Center Drive in St. Peters, ahead of the bar’s grand opening on Saturday, April 1. The 6,000-square-foot bar’s facilities include a food counter operated by Vails Brothers, an event space and two outdoor patios.
Owners Archie and Ashley Harmon opened the original Wentzville location of Chillax in March 2020, building the business through the Covid-19 pandemic and establishing Chillax as a destination in St. Charles County for beer lovers. When they turned their thoughts to expansion, they knew they weren’t looking simply for a new location, they were looking for a much larger space. Their search took them to the site of the new Chillax, a former doughnut production and distribution center that has allowed the Harmons to realize their vision.
First and foremost, Chillax is still primarily about the beer. “It’s still the same concept of being a craft beer haven,” Ashley said. “We’ve just added a few more elements to it to introduce and make it more inviting for people that don’t necessarily drink craft beer.” Like its forerunner, the new location has 30 taps for draft beer that will rotate regularly. Archie said at any one time, around a quarter of the taps will reliably pour beers brewed in the St. Louis region, with Chillax also representing breweries from around the U.S. and beyond. Chillax regularly creates collaboration brews with local breweries – past collaborations have included breweries like Narrow Gauge Brewing Co. and Civil Life Brewing Co.
A wall of refrigerators supplements the draft beer offerings with a large variety of bottles and cans that can be purchased either for consumption on site or taken home. The owners aim to keep offerings as fresh and up to date as possible. “You can be assured that you have the latest and greatest beer that’s out there,” Archie said. It’s worth paying attention to Chillax’s social media pages for announcements on new releases – Ashley said the more exclusive beer drops can sell out within a day or two.
The new Chillax sets itself apart from its predecessor with a kitchen, with the Harmons bringing in Karen and Eric Vails of Vails Brothers to provide counter service, pickup and drive-thru services. Customers can order from the counter, or via the Vails Brothers mobile app. “They do outstanding food,” Archie said. “We chose them for one particular thing, which is that they’re great people.”
The food menu is an ideal complement to beer drinking, with Vails Brothers’ signature breaded and fried shrimp, chicken and catfish plates a good starting point. You can also order sides like fries, mac and cheese and fried okra, and there are sandwiches including a double cheeseburger, Nashville hot chicken sandwich and the Jimmy Chicken sandwich, named for Eric’s late friend Jimmy Venincasa.
“I'm super excited,” said Eric Vails of the opportunity to bring Vails Brothers into Chillax. The Chillax kitchen is the third Vails Brothers location in the St. Louis area, with a fourth location operated by Eric’s son in Houston, Texas. Eric said that everything at Vails Brothers is hand-breaded from scratch, with the honey hot sauce Vail’s No. 1 selling sauce and the wings the best-selling item overall at other locations. “You should always get the wings,” he said.
Vails Brothers and Chillax will launch a brunch on Easter Sunday, April 9. Some of the signatures will include shrimp and grits, the Biggie Smalls (a marinated ribeye steak sandwich) and biscuits and gravy.
The new Chillax follows the same aesthetic as the Wentzville taproom, just on a larger scale. “The only way we know now is to go bigger,” Archie said. “What we find is, that over in Wentzville, we miss out on customer base because it's just a simple space.” The new space occupies a footprint three times larger than Wentzville – coincidentally, the original location was formerly a doughnut shop. Where Wentzville has one garage door, St. Peters has three, allowing the entire front side of the taproom to be opened up on sunny days. On the front side of the building, there’s a pet-friendly patio with a few tables and chairs. Customers can also take their food and beers out to the back patio, which is covered by a shelter that can be adjusted to allow varying degrees of protection from the sun or rain.
With the new space, Chillax can accommodate private events without interrupting the flow of regular business. “The private space has already been booked for events,” Ashley said. “We have a lot of networking events coming up.” The Harmons are also using the new space to showcase the work of local artists, with pieces displayed on multiple walls throughout the building. “We have a lot of art from local artists and we're doing a rotating art gallery wall, to where they can display their art and actually sell it,” Ashley said. “Everything that is hung up was created by local artists, including the murals.” Among the first artists featured include Art Doll, BriLynn Asia, Jasmyn Diggs, Kitty Harrison and Julie Gittemeier.
Archie said the “art incubator” concept reflects how he and Ashley view the brand they’re building with Chillax. “We create spaces where you can have memories and moments with family or friends that you want to repeat over and over again,” he said. “And so that's our experience over there [in Wentzville], and we brought that here to St. Peters.”
Both Chillax and the Vails Brothers kitchen are open from 3 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, noon to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.