Flamingo Cocktail Club / Falcon Coffee Bar
At 10 p.m. on a recent Thursday at Flamingo Cocktail Club, a DJ spins The Isley Brothers from the balcony of what was once a church. The lights are low and the vibe chill in the “sanctuary” below, where curved couches snake through the space under vaulted ceilings webbed with a pattern of richly stained wood. Plants, coupled with shades of turquoise and rose, make the club feel like 1970s Miami, the city where Alexis and Britt were raised, along with partner Angela Laino, who headed up the design and programming for Flamingo with Alexis. The sisters have a knack for taking inspiration from the bones and history of a place and adding their own style in ways that make sense in the now.
As couples order cocktails and friends pop in for tequila shots, Alexis fluffs cushions on the patio out back. Earlier, she’d been developing a new cocktail menu, and soon she’ll meet with a new hire in the kitchen. Yes, it’s nearly midnight, but as Alexis puts it, she’s really “gettin’ it” at Flamingo right now. With a coffee shop and café called Falcon Coffee Bar in the front part of the space, the business is open “19 to 20 hours a day,” she says. “That’s a lot.”
Flamingo sits in an up-and-coming part of town called Wedgewood-Houston (WeHo for short). Industrial-looking buildings in the area have been morphing into restaurants, galleries, and artist spaces. But the condos going up around Flamingo aren’t on the market yet, and the Solers and their partners are definitely on the pioneering side of things in the neighborhood—just as they were with No. 308 in East Nashville. Alexis arrived in town in 2009 and Britt in 2010, a few years before Nashville became “it city,” and they’ve stayed on the front edge of what’s hot here ever since. At 308, for instance, the sisters and co-owner Ben Clemons made their own sodas before others were doing it, with a noisy CO2 gas line and repurposed plastic bottles. They juiced fruit and made tonic syrup. They were the first in town to take cocktail culture away from the speakeasy-style experience, with its velvet curtains and waitlists, and move toward creating more approachable environments focused on fun. You could still order a craft cocktail from the menu, but you could also order a shot (with a creative name and fruit chaser) and beer.
“I shouldn’t have all this,” says Alexis, describing how she dropped out of high school and skipped college. But plenty of people in Nashville would disagree. She’s worked hard alongside her sister, transforming unlikely and sometimes forgotten spaces into some of the city’s most vibrant and innovative bars.
Matt Buttel of Nashville Bar Alliance (formerly Nashville Ice Lab) works with cocktail-related clients to provide scratch ingredients, ice, menu design, and development. He says the Solers created places that people seek out when they come to Nashville. They opened 308, for example, beyond the Five Points area of East Nashville. “It was a big deal that they took a chance.”
He also says 308 was one of the early bars in Nashville to combine craftsman-ship with volume, and all the while, Alexis and Britt have been intentional about spending a lot of time at their bars. “They’re actually involved in making sure clients have a great time—providing real hospitality.”
Looking at the siblings these days, it’s surprising to learn a time existed when they weren’t close. Both sisters describe themselves as “feelers” and have more introverted tendencies than you might expect for people who work so closely with the public. Days off, which might happen on Sundays, for example, are sacred.
For their differences, they might disagree most on who’s the most shy. “I’m totally more shy,” Britt says. “She’s more spontaneous.” But they’re both understated, she adds. And when they collaborate, there’s not a lot of bossing, but a lot of volleying: “What if we did this?”
Alexis found the bar business early, which initially created a family divide. “I was kind of a horrible child, and I moved out of the house very young,” she says. “I was on this very selfish, self-destructive path when I was younger, so I think that created a disconnect between us.”
When the owner of a club where she had been hanging out asked if she wanted a job, Alexis took it, eager to get behind the bar and start learning.
“I was attracted to how people [there] were and how it seemed so free and fun,” Alexis says. “Our family is super not-fun. I don’t want to say rigid, but there’s a seriousness that comes with who we are … We are inherently serious.”
Meanwhile, Britt, just a preteen at the time, took a different path.
“I grew up watching her do her thing, and I’m like, ‘I’m good. I’m going to be a Girl Scout until I’m 17,’” she says, and she’s not exaggerating. “It’s everyone’s favorite fact about me. I went to college. I did the whole thing. It’s funny—despite our disconnect, we came back together.”
After their parents divorced, Alexis broke up with her boyfriend and Britt left school for a summer, moving back into their mother’s house. “It was like a weird Three’s Company,” Britt says.
“We had a really good summer,” Alexis adds. She had made her way through the Miami bar scene to take a job at the Florida Room at the posh Delano hotel, but decided to leave for a fresh start in Nashville. “Then I asked Britt if she wanted to come.”