Ernest Hemingway claims to have written The Sun Also Rises piss drunk. “Not drunk in any positive sense but just enough to be careless,” he notes in the book.

FOUNDATION, Raleigh’s longtime cavernous refuge for whiskey lovers and cocktail connoisseurs, takes care of that feeling for you. But it also promotes local art and local poetry, which features on their seasonal printed menus.

As an extension of its appreciation for the thoughts fueled by a good drink, the bar launched an essay competition this year. The gist of the prompt is this: “Did something incredible happen to you one night at FOUNDATION? Something weird, something ridiculous, something strange? Something you will never forget? Did an intense conversation give way to a great idea? Perhaps, even, an experience that changed your life forever? Tell us a tale.”

Full guidelines can be found here. The deadline is August 31 (get on it!). The INDY will publish the winning essay. We spoke to FOUNDATION bartender and writer Kari Smith about why the bar chose to sponsor a writing contest.

INDY: Why this contest?

KARI SMITH: Celebrating their eight-year anniversary caused owners Will Alphin and Vince Whitehurst to reflect on FOUNDATION, and its history and meaning. They recognize that most of these things come from their patrons, and they wanted to hear their stories and celebrate them! People make FOUNDATION a place of community and heart.

There’s an obvious correlation with literature (nay writers) and alcohol. Is this something you considered for inspiration to do this contest? If so, what sort of writing or writers do you and others at the bar appreciate?

K.S.: The best thing about FOUNDATION is that it a safe space for everyone to gather and talk. No television means more conversation, which is amazing to watch in such a technological age. Everybody that works or frequents or pops in there has different tastes, but I know that every time I go there, I inevitably leave with at least one book title to check out. And I do think the obvious correlation with literature/writers and alcohol was in our minds when thinking about this essay, but I think the true inspiration was our desire to hear our guests’ stories!

What sort of stories have you heard from customers at FOUNDATION—or even observed—that made you think this would be a great prompt?

K.S.: This is kind of a tough question! Pretty much anything you can imagine has happened here—make-ups, break-ups, proposals, jobs, laughter, tears. And probably a few things I shouldn’t even mention! But that is the whole idea behind this contest—we want to hear those stories from our guests!

How do you solicit poetry and art for your menus? Is this a similar thing?

K.S.: A lot of our poetry and art bookings happen through word of mouth. We also print our email address ( on every menu and encourage guests to contact us if they are interested. I think the essay competition is a little different. We set up a Facebook event for it, and email blasts. We want to get everyone excited about expressing their FOUNDATION stories in their own way.

Where would you print a winning essay?

K.S.: The winning essay would be printed online [Ed. Note: and online in the INDY], and, possibly, in future menus and publications. This is our first time doing this, so we are curious and excited to see how the public responds!

I think the anniversary definitely got Will and Vince thinking about the bar, and its history, and all the people, stories, and lives that have walked up and down those stairs. The hope is to continue having these essay competitions and accumulate a myriad of moments that create their own narrative about FOUNDATION and what that place means to so many individuals.