Years ago the television show Cheers brought us laughter and antics surrounding a cast of characters that frequented a local bar in Boston. For most of us, that was just good Hollywood writing and a world many do not know, especially if you live in the south. But as is the case with most art, it captures the world around it. The inspiration for Cheers seemingly came from the Boston bar on Charles Street of the same name, or it could have come literally from the thousands of establishments littering the northern states. I have been to Cheers in Boston. It is small, and it is full of tourists. But just go to anyone of the largely family owned corner bars across the ex-industrial northern U.S. You will find a cast of characters on any given night. You will find that each bar has it’s own unique personality that drives the clientele. Generally speaking, drinks are cheap, at least from the standards of what we in the south are used to paying where drinking largely comes from restaurant bars and/or meat markets.
These bars, as well, being mostly family owned, are far from the corporate greed and mentality that drives most of the alcohol consumption in the south. Truly, if you look around at the hundreds of offerings in this city of 100K people that is pictured above, you cannot imagine these bar owners clearing much more than $25-30K a year after expenses. The above pictured bar, Gordy’s Prairie Pub offers nothing spectacular. It is about 500 square feet in retail space, has a single pool table, juke box, and well, that’s it. Now this particular bar staffs the bar with bartenders that are vibrant looking women. Kind of a Hooter’s for the corner bar.
This is never a bad thing for business, and this likely drives the owners bottom line. Like most bars, it is filled with regular patrons. Most of the older patrons spend their money, drink the entire evening, and await the good bye hug from one of the young bartenders. But on this journey, they have probably dropped $20-30 on the drink of their choice (and at these inexpensive drink prices, that is a lot of drinks) , got lit along the way, and stayed long enough to risk the drive back (Wisconsin blood alcohol level has just been ratcheted down to .08).
The operation is sparse. Even though Gordy’s, like most corner bars up here offer food, the sole bartender must prepare the bar while still tending to slinging the drinks. Much of it is pre-prepped food offerings. The usually half in the bag customers rarely know the difference, but if a bar does not offer food, it is less likely to be as popular. Truly, one way to be able to drink over longer periods of time is to have food available to sop up the alcohol.
In many of these family run bars, the owners themselves are the largest customers. Other bars I have been to locally here have the owners either working the bar, or close by, throwing back a bevy of drinks to last them the entire night. Well, I guess it is a cost of doing business.
Personalities at these establishments vary from the truly funny to the morose. But in the end, everyone has a story to tell, a place they have been, and ex-wife that drives them bat shit crazy (still), a amazing event or fish story, or just overall conversation on how the family is and what kind of trouble junior as gotten himself into. It is truly refreshing to be in an environment like this. Now once in a while, the massive alchol takes over and disagreements pop up, but that is just part of the roadmap. Hell, go to any homeboy club and count the fights…..these folks have thier shit together comparatively.
In the end, it is understandable the attraction to these places in a northern city such as this. On this night where the pic was snapped, it was 26 degrees out. You are either inside drinking cognac in front of your fireplace, bowling, or here. I choose here.
If you ever get a chance to visit a northern city (by this I mean far above the Mason-Dixon line for you southern jerks who do not know the difference), visit a local bar. Northerners are not that friendly on the street as southerners are. But walk into a place like this with even a semi-friendly face, and you will be greeted, talked with, and find yourself pouring out your life stories as much as the drinks are being poured into your glass. Enjoy.
Peacenc nc nc