WECO Bottle and Biergarten sold pint glasses emblazoned with the logo of The Whig. The Whig closed in November after the building’s owners decided to do something different with the space. (Photos by Noah Hale)
WECO Bottle and Biergarten is helping fans of the now-closed Columbia bar The Whig remember their favorite former hangout.
WECO, which opened three years ago in West Columbia, is operated by the same owners who opened The Whig in downtown Columbia in 2005.
The owners recently rolled out pint glasses bearing The Whig’s logo in commemoration.
“We knew we wanted to do something,” said Phil Blair, one of the owners of WECO. “Do we do T-shirts? Do we do glassware?”
The gritty, basement-level Whig, which sat across Gervais Street from the State House, closed in December after the building owner wanted to do something else with the leased space.
“The Whig had its own personality,” said A.J. Marsh, who was a regular. “You’d still see people down there in suits mingling with college kids in jeans and band T-shirts and stuff like that. … It really was a vibe.”
Former customers quickly went into mourning. They even held a party outside the Columbia Art Museum to say goodbye to the bar and to one another.
The bars’ ownership group wanted to do something else to memorialize the icon. But they weren’t sure what to do.
The group struggled to decide as business boomed in the final months of The Whig. Eventually, they reached a decision.
“The glassware was like an easy, kind of tasteful, way to do it,” Blair said.
They decided to go with pint glasses that had “The Whig” emblazoned on one side and “North America’s Greatest Divebar” on the other.
The next question for the group was where to sell the memento.
WECO was the obvious choice because of its sister bar’s limited space and because there already was so much going on there – crowds were forming long lines to visit the bar one more time before it closed.
“We put them up and (they) sold out ridiculously fast,” Blair said. “The demand was more than I expected.”
WECO’s owners had ordered enough to have them delivered by freight, but not enough to last for long at their beer garden.
They knew they had to do a second batch. And it had to be bigger.
On Dec. 3, less than an hour before it opened, Weco announced they had the glasses in stock again.
“Well over a thousand pieces,” Blair said. “(We) did the same thing again and sold out in no time. I mean lines out the door.”
Within five hours the glasses were gone.
It’s where Marsh got his glasses.
“I’m gonna have a centerpiece for my favorite spot and it’s gonna not get used for anything other than decor,” he said.
The owners thought they were done after the second release, but folks kept asking. They decided to do one last release “just to put it to bed,” Blair said.
The WECO Twitter account announced Jan. 7 the bar would have the last batch. And the third release was larger than the previous two.
“The third batch landed, and sure enough, 11 a.m. we open here (at WECO) and there’s a line of people in the parking lot,” Blair said. “(It’s) like we’re releasing some sort of very sought after shoe or something.”
Blair doesn’t believe they’ll release more glasses, but didn’t exactly say “no.”
“In six months, when everybody’s bored, who knows,” she said.
Marsh is happy with his memento.
“I look at the glass,” Marsh said. “It’s like, ‘I had a spot one time.”