Unless you're one of seven patrons seated at the bar, the standing-room-only section of Bijou craft cocktail bar is perhaps an even tighter fit.
Bijou opened Nov. 1 inside a previously vacant, pocket-sized building — 277 square feet in total — that last housed an ice cream and coffee shop on the southern edge of Spokane's historic Browne's Addition Neighborhood.
Bijou, which means trinket, jewel or something small and elegant, is owned by Spokane couple Shelayna and Tyson Skidmore, both longtime local bartenders who also make and sell aromatic bitters through their business Skidmore Alchemy. The dozen or so flavors of bitters in their lineup are available for purchase at Bijou.
"We'd been looking for a space for our bitters for a while, but we wanted it to be somewhere people could come and learn about bitters and different liquors," Shelayna Skidmore says. "It's an educational space as well as a space to have fun and drink."
After initially looking at the building in June and thinking it too small, the couple later reconsidered, feeling it was the ideal size to allow them better customer interaction.
In addition to using their own bitters, a highly concentrated spirits-based flavor additive, the couple is making their own tea-infused syrups for use in Bijou's cocktail and espresso menu.
The syrups are made using organic blends from Rishi Tea to create flavors like cinnamon plum, orange blossom, vanilla black tea and chamomile. For its coffee menu, Bijou is using Doma Coffee.
The craft cocktail menu features 16 options, all $9 each, split evenly between house recipes created by the Skidmores, and classics. Of course, they'll also mix up any drink on request.
For house specialties, there's the Catholic Rebellion, featuring peach, aromatic bitters, bourbon, yellow Chartreuse, Benedictine, amaro and demerara simple syrup. The titular Bijou is gin, green Chartreuse and sweet vermouth. On the classics side, traditional favorites include the Paloma, Sazerac, Corpse Reviver No. 2 and Paper Plane.
While the bar seats seven guests at five stools along the bar top plus two more in plush chairs tucked in a cozy corner, the couple was told by the fire marshal that the space's maximum capacity is 30.
Early on a recent Friday evening, steam from the dishwasher had fogged up the bar's floor-to-ceiling windows facing Fourth Avenue and the railroad tracks across the street. It didn't take long for all seven seats to fill up, leaving a couple of guests to stand and sip while waiting for other seated guests to depart.
"People have one or two [drinks] and leave, and they'll stand until someone leaves and take a seat," Shelayna notes. "It kind of rotates and we haven't had any issues with the smallness."
Despite the space challenges, Bijou will open a large front patio space when warmer weather returns. The couple plan to set up several tables, a few bar games like cornhole and ladder golf, and another outside bar top. They hope to partner with local food trucks and host live music, too.
"We have always loved this neighborhood and feel like there's a lot of industry people here, and with the artisticness of the neighborhood it would be a good fit for what our vision is," Shelayna says. ♦
Bijou • 1925 W. Fourth Ave. • Open daily 11 am-midnight • facebook.com/bijoubeverages • 413-2379