USC Judges

Justin Lavenue
Justin Lavenue
Bar Owner, Bartender, Consultant, Buyer
Justin Lavenue

Justin Lavenue got his start in the restaurant business in 2009, bussing tables at an Indian restaurant while attending the University of Colorado at Boulder. Within a few months, he began bartending and was quickly promoted to Bar Manager, working the weekend shifts while taking classes on the weekdays. When asked to create a new drink menu for the establishment to match the fresh, bold flavors found in Indian cuisine, he developed an obsession for meticulously crafted cocktails, fine spirits, beer, and wine.

In the summer of 2011, after graduating Valedictorian of CU’s Leeds School of Business, Lavenue began working at the Bitter Bar, one of Colorado’s first “craft cocktail bars,” known for developing skilled industry professionals. In the summer of 2013, after holding the Head Bartender position for two years, the opportunity to open a bar in Austin and take advantage of its burgeoning culinary scene presented itself, and so he made the easy decision to move back to his hometown in August 2013.

In September 2013, Lavenue passed the rigorous BAR 5-Day Course in New York City “with very high marks.” He is currently studying and working toward completing his BAR Masters Certification. In December 2013, while scouting locations for his establishment, he was offered the opportunity to be part of the opening staff at Half Step, a high-volume cocktail bar located in Austin’s eclectic Rainey Street district. Owned by Eric Alperin of The Varnish in Los Angeles and the late Sasha Petraske of Milk & Honey in New York, Lavenue was one of Petraske’s last standout understudies before his passing in August 2015.

Lavenue left Half Step a year later to open The Roosevelt Room alongside business partner, Dennis Gobis. The following month, he was one of 25 up-and-coming bartenders featured in the 2015 Food & Wine Cocktail Book. In August 2015, he was recognized as one of the “Rock Stars Redefining the Industry” in Zagat Austin’s “30 Under 30” awards. The next month, he won Bombay Sapphire’s Most Imaginative Bartender 2015 competition in Las Vegas, NV, and was named one of Food & Wine Magazine’s “Best New Mixologists” of 2015.

Today, Lavenue continues to study for his BAR Masters certification while operating The Roosevelt Room and its neighboring event space, The Eleanor. He consults for bar and restaurant projects both locally and nationally, writes cocktail recipes for major brands to help promote their products, educates and trains bartenders, and has plans to open additional concepts with Gobis in the near future.