By DJ MORROW INGRAM
“Please don’t make this story about me. Bourbon Tulsa Weekly is not about me,” stressed Michael Patton.
But it’s hard not to. Patton is the creative brain behind a relatively new “social club” that meets each week to “try out new places and meet new people” (according to the club business card). And its success isn’t surprising coming from the man who was at the forefront of Tulsa’s environmental and recycling efforts, led the Metropolitan Environmental Trust 22 years, created the Tulsa Bull Run, helped spur Ozone Alert Days and is now the executive director of Land Legacy. But he’s right. This story is about Bourbon Tulsa Weekly. The Michael Patton story (which is fascinating, inspiring and funny) is for another time.
Each Tuesday at 5:30 p.m., an ever-changing group of people, often strangers to each other, gather at a different Tulsa establishment for an hour of socializing, networking and just having a good time. Although the name of the “social club” is Bourbon Tulsa, the consumption of alcohol is secondary to the mission of the club.
“It’s all about a safe, positive way for Tulsans to get out, meet new people and experience new venues,” Patton said. “We also hope it helps these local, small businesses get new customers in the door.”
The name of the club (no dues, no officers, no club business) was chosen because “bourbon is truly an all-American liquor” that has even been recognized by the United States Congress as a “distinctive product of the United States,” Patton said. Tuesday was chosen because it’s a night when there is less going on in the active Tulsa nightlife and one of the harder nights for local businesses to draw crowds.
“There are probably a handful of people who actually drink bourbon at the meetings,” said Patton. “Most of the women drink wine and most of the men drink beer, but we do have some bourbon aficionados who will drink and compare bourbons.” Several of the businesses have catered to the name: Bread and Butter Kitchen offered bourbon pecan pie, the Tulsa Press Club created a special bourbon menu and The Brook offered bourbon tastings.
“The bar managers and owners have all been so gracious about hosting the club and are enthusiastic about getting on the schedule,” Patton said.
Nikita Layson, co-owner of 473 Bar and Backyard with her husband, Andrew, was enthusiastic about hosting the group in early August.
“We’ve only been open about three and a half months so this is a great opportunity for us to get new people through the doors and see who we are,” Layson said. “We think 473 is perfect for this type of group – we’re nestled in the quaint Kendall-Whittier neighborhood, our menu is focused on locally produced and boutique wines and beers and we aim for a ‘chill vibe’ with great music.”
Jeff Pugh, a local landscape architect, attended Bourbon Tulsa Weekly for the first time at 473 Bar out of curiosity after seeing it on Facebook. “I loved the idea of visiting a new place that I might not otherwise go to and meeting new people. If it works out to be good for my business, that’s a plus.”
Local attorney and former city councilor Terry Doverspike commented that he liked that there is no structure, no dues, no expectations and no political agenda to the group.
“Although I’ve somewhat retired I’m not interested in sitting on the couch watching ‘Jeopardy’,” Doverspike said. “I love that this group is so diverse. It crosses generations, occupations, ethnicities.
“It’s safe in that you’re not signing up or committing to anything. It’s technically just one hour, it’s not a private club, you can always bring friends or relatives with you and it exposes you to different businesses.”
Communication for the club is managed through a Facebook page, Bourbon Tulsa Weekly, although it does maintain a Gmail account. Patton has scheduled locations through the end of the year with no repeats until the one-year anniversary Jan. 7, 2020 when the group will return to the Tulsa Press Club, the site of the first meeting. The attendance ranges weekly from 10 to 40. Patton is always the first to arrive. He greets everyone and makes sure no one is sitting alone.
“The idea is so simple it’s simply brilliant,” said Betty Dalsing, a local artist. “It’s a great way to meet new people and reconnect with old friends.”
Patton is happy with the success of the club and says his only concern will be if the numbers grow to where it won’t fit into some of Tulsa’s smaller establishments. But it’s a problem he will enthusiastically attack.
“Years ago I started my career wanting to change the world,” he said. “Now I just want to change the world’s mood.”