- Jordan Barry ©️ Seven Days
- The skeleton sign above the door at Good Trouble
Update: Since this article was published, the owners decided to change the name of their new bar to the Wallflower Collective.
Buying a bar during a global pandemic is a gamble. Buying a bar across the country? "Basically, we're crazy," Lauren McKenzie said.
But that's what McKenzie, 33, and her husband, Matt Simpson, 30, have done, and in May they'll open Good Trouble at 71 South Union Street in Burlington.
McKenzie and Simpson are bartenders by trade. After being furloughed from their jobs in Austin, Texas, in early 2020, they started looking for a smaller, more affordable place to start a business of their own.
"The service industry is kind of all we've ever known, and it was always a dream to one day open up a bar," McKenzie said. "It was mid-election cycle and mid-pandemic, and we wanted out of central Texas."
Burlington fit their criteria, and when they saw the listing for the former Highball Social space, they jumped on it. Their laid-back neighborhood bar will occupy the funeral parlor-turned-food hub that also houses Folino's, Willow's Bagels and Little Gordo Creemee Stand.
The skeleton sign above the door nods to the building's history, while the name Good Trouble honors late civil rights leader and longtime U.S. representative John Lewis. The couple has commissioned Rutland artist LMNOPI to paint a mural tribute to Lewis on the side of the building.
"We were really inspired by his legacy and his quote about 'making good trouble,'" McKenzie said. In addition to hosting local artists and community events, the bar will donate 5 percent of its profits to a different local charity every month.
"We want to give a stage to ideas and organizations," Simpson said. "We're incorporating the spirit of it — drinking with a cause," McKenzie added.
The couple has retained some of the elements of Highball Social, including the mountain scene behind the bar, while adding couches and other vintage furniture, a fireplace, pool tables, and a small stage.
"It feels like a living room at this point," Simpson said.
The bar will serve versions of classic cocktails named after the couple's five dogs, local craft beer, cheap domestic beer, kombucha on tap, coffee and other nonalcoholic offerings.
Like its predecessor, Good Trouble will have a "symbiotic relationship" with Folino's, McKenzie said. Customers will be able to order from a limited menu of Folino's offerings at the bar or bring food over from the pizzeria.
As soon as Good Trouble receives its liquor license, McKenzie and Simpson hope to be open daily for customers 21 and up.