Unlike many establishments, nothing on Zeppelins Bar & Grill’s drink menu is off limits during happy hour.
All drinks at Zeppelins, including specialty wines, beers and liquor, are two-for-one from 3-6 p.m. seven days a week.
While Friday is obviously the busiest day for happy hour, there is always a steady flow of customers, said Tim Oathout, general manager. The establishment’s relative proximity to Cedar Rapids metro employers like TransAmerica and GoDaddy certainly doesn’t hurt.
“Every day is a little bit different; there is no rhyme or reason,” he said. “You can come in on a Monday and the bar will be packed.”
Familiar faces among the staff contribute to Zeppelins’ popularity.
“We have almost no turnover in staff,” Mr. Oathout said. “We are not retraining people. Bartenders build up a crowd because they know their names and what they order.”
Many customers are ordering craft beer, he said, including locally produced brews from newly opened Turner Alley Brewing in Cedar Rapids. And while mainstays like Coors and Guinness are always available, most of the 24 beers on tap consistently revolve, keeping customers coming back to see what’s new.
Over the past few years, the bar has also built up its liquor and cocktail program – a strategy that mirrors nationwide trends over the past decade. The staff makes homemade bitters and simple syrups, such as basil and Earl Grey tea
Zeppelins’ bartenders also make cocktails in small batches and bottle them. One of the bottled cocktails they’ve concocted is the Naked Poolside, made up of Puerto Rican rum, orange liqueur, Earl Grey tea simple syrup, fresh orange and lemon juice, citrus bitters and salt saline.
“It’s definitely a poolside drink, and if you have too many, you could definitely set an atmosphere,” Mr. Oathout said of the catchy name.
Making small batches of cocktails and bottling them saves staff time during a busy happy hour.
“A cocktail with that many ingredients can be pretty overwhelming to mix individually,” he noted.
Zeppelins’ wine program, which features half-price bottles on Sundays, also does well, Mr. Oathout said.
“We have such a great crowd on Sundays,” he said. “It’s a small social scene where people can get away from the house on a Sunday afternoon.”
The restaurant, which seats 250 people, doesn’t offer any food specials during happy hour. But that doesn’t deter customers from eating while imbibing.
“We do very good food sales during happy hour, which is a good thing when people are drinking,” Mr. Oathout said.
– Angela Holmes
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