A McCombs School of Business alumnus is making “Pour Choices” on Sixth Street, opening a bar with the $593,173 grand prize he won in a poker tournament.
Jay Lee and his three business partners opened Pour Choices two weeks ago and will hold a grand opening celebration on Friday.
Born and raised in Austin, Lee said he has been helping his parents with their own business since graduating in 2012 with a marketing degree, delivering Chinese food for their restaurant and managing social media.
“I graduated from McCombs and didn’t want to go the corporate route immediately and be a little fish in a big pond,” said Lee, now 27. “The majority of my income was coming from poker and helping with my family’s restaurant, China Palace, but, you know, that was their project.”
UT alumnus Jeffrey Pao was at the core of Lee’s entourage during the final rounds of the World Poker Tour event in Oklahoma last August. Pao graduated from McCombs in 2010 with a degree in finance and is one of Lee’s best friends. He’s a fellow partner at the bar, which was a lifelong dream of theirs.
“It was a really thrilling eight or nine hours,” Pao said. “I came up the night before and we hung out and reminisced and we were like, ‘It will be life changing no matter what.’”
Pao’s mother was the first person at the hospital when Lee was born, and he and Pao have been friends ever since.
Richard Matthews is one of the two managers at Pour Choices and has worked on Sixth for years. The frenzied environment is a blast for thousands on the weekends, but he said the chaos is different from the other side of the bar.
“There’s definitely a lot of crazy stuff that happens that all blends in together,” Matthews said. “Me and the other manager, Aaron, have had to kick people out for trying to dump in urinals, sinks and even photo booths. I’ve seen someone spit out a shot, set it down and a minute later someone else drink it.”
Matthews said he has confidence in the energetic and experienced staff at Pour Choices.
“Consistency with your service, from top to bottom, is key,” Matthews said. “You can’t come in with a high level of energy Saturday, and not have the same energy on Monday.”
Lee said the bar opening would not have been possible without the tournament money and the connections he made years ago with people working on Sixth, many of whom are now his staff. He said his advice for current business students is to focus on networking in college rather than the degree itself.
“School itself is overrated, but McCombs and college in general teaches you to think a different way and not be stagnant,” Lee said. “The networking side of it is so crucial. I’ve met so many people that can now help me push this bar along.”