Bar Agricole Plans For “Sociocratic” Return

After a difficult year of setbacks, Thad Vogler is ready to return to his roots.
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The past few years have not been easy on barkeeper Thad Vogler. Between the closure of three of his four bars in 2020 and the recent release of allegations of wage theft and unpaid debts, the year has certainly humbled the James Beard award-winning restaurateur. Now, after a year of contemplation and planning, Vogler is finally ready to relaunch his original bar.

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Bar Agricole first came into the scene about a decade ago. Opening on 355 11th Street in the heart of the SOMA district, Bar Agricole quickly became a hit. In its first year of operation it won the James Beard award for Outstanding Design and would go on to win the Outstanding Bar Program award eight years later.

Vogler, who is also an author, wrote By the Smoke and the Smell in 2017, a globetrotting guide that uncovers the secrets of spirits around the world. Vogler is dedicated to the pursuit of single-origin spirits, which he prioritized with the original Bar Agricole. His dream is to take the locally-sourced philosophy that has seized the coffee, wine, and beer industries and apply it to spirits and liquors. He wants to avoid mass-produced blends from liquor conglomerates and start highlighting regional producers that take their craft seriously.

As Vogler plans for the relaunch of Bar Agricole, he has been hard at work devising a strategy to ensure that he doesn’t repeat any mistakes he might have made when he was younger. Having squared away his debts earlier this year, his next step was to restructure the organization of his restaurant in a way that removes any hierarchy.

Describing his guiding philosophy as “Sociocracy”, Vogler intends to give 20% of company shares to employees to ensure that everybody has ownership of the bar and is incentivized to make it succeed. He wants to work with his new team in a more democratic way where all levels of employees have a say in the bar’s future. The goal of the new philosophy is to crowd-source the decision making process in order to avoid friction and power imbalances.

As part of his relaunch, Vogler wants to return to his roots and prioritize the single-origin spirits that first brought him to the industry. The new Bar Agricole will emphasize liquor sales and distribution and will tone down its emphasis on fine cuisine, though they will still be serving small bites to compliment their drink menu. Vogler wants to simplify his operation and reduce it to only the things he does best.

Intending to launch in December, the new Bar Agricole is expected to open on the ground floor of a recently-constructed luxury building at 1550 Mission Street. If Vogler’s sociocracy experiment is successful, then it could mean big changes to the assumed hierarchy of the restaurant industry. The more Vogler and his team succeed, the more other employers will be incentivized to disrupt the hierarchies of their own restaurants.

Jake Rogers

Jake Rogers is an author and playwright based out of Brooklyn, New York. A lively performer who is deeply passionate about history and literature, outside of his reporting he also produces short films and plays with his theatre troupe, the LSTC. He is currently producing a web series about a butterfly and moth who are roommates that will be released later in the year.
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