Brian’s Column: The Good Ol’ Bars

Whither gentlemen’s pubs in Motor City ‘burbs?
by Brian Wright and John Worster


Hey John Boy,

I thought of you last night as I was heading home from golf. The gang had holed up briefly at Baker’s on Milford Road, a decent venue, but I wasn’t done. Had this urge to find a decent martini bar, one without valet parking and charging $10 for the privilege of pouring you a special one. (There’s one in Novi, I think. But, nah, no way I can afford that, besides I didn’t feel presentable in the Hawaiian shirt.)

Wound up checking out a place on Novi Road just north of 10 Mile. What a dive! Younger. Loud. Sports stuff and ultimate fighting on the TVs. The barmaids, all triple-D cup size, spoke in monosyllables… if you got their attention. No point in a quiet martini there. No badinage. I miss the manners and class, reasonable friendly conversation, and yes, even the cigarettes… shaken not stirred. And I am so sick of friggin’ TVs in bars.

Stay healthy, Pizza Man.

Ponyboy


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Hey Brian,

I understand completely the new bar situation. Back in the day there was more of a family feel to the crowd when I was bartending. Not everyone was awesome but you and some of your cohorts helped to pass the time with intelligent, thoughtful discussion. The drunkard blowhards we just chalked up as that Uncle we put up with because he’s family, but you know that at your wedding he will fall down drunk on the dance floor, hit on the way-too-young bride’s maid, and most likely knock the cake off the table while stealing a cash gift envelope.

We had a tight knit clan of people at the bar back then—was it 15 years ago, or 20?!!—who almost became a euphemism for the TV show Cheers… except we were actually funny. I wish I could explain why most bartenders today seem annoyed that there are customers present. It is tough to find mild conversation much less witty banter. When I bartended, it wasn’t always talk because of being busy, but during down time it was nice to just shoot the shit to break up the monotony.

Not to mention the fact that we lived on tips. Servers don’t even make minimum wage because we make tips. I was paid $2.52 an hour. My pay for two weeks after taxes that came from the tips (that had to be claimed) was enough to fill my gas tank, buy a soda and a Slim Jim, and have 25 cents left over to play the skill crane at the bowling alley to try to win that Curious George doll.

(Am I the only one who thinks the Man in the yellow hat looks like a stalker who drives a pick up with tinted windows… creepy!!!!!!)

If you didn’t get good service, we didn’t pay the rent. This seems like enough incentive to actually try or even fake it for the good of the job. The fact remains though, if one doesn’t enjoy being around or talking to people, then why the hell is one a bartender? Go drive a truck or deliver for UPS. Hopefully we are just in the Bush-era equivalent of service, but I don’t see it changing anytime soon. It is a sad state of affairs.

I do understand your hatred of TVs, but I see both sides of it. I like going out to watch the game on TV and strike up a conversation about football with someone while watching it. I especially enjoy a bar downtown called Shotz after the Lions lose at home. In fact, I often strike up conversations with the liquor promotion girls. (Have you seen the girls they send for those promos… HI-YO!). My management experience and having dealt with promos before helps me keep their attention where every other drooling douche bag fails… Yeah Me! The point being, the volume factor is much more important than the TVs. I do see your side though.

I especially understand your point about ultimate fighting. A bar full of football fans is fun, a bar full of UFC fans is pathetic. I actually was interested to see a certain PPV fight, so me and my roommate went up to a Hooters restaurant where they show it and actually don’t charge cover! (They make it back in wings and beer… oh, my stomach.)

I discovered while parts of the fight were mildly interesting, overall it wasn’t something I enjoyed. The crowd probably had something to do with it. Whenever there was a takedown, the crowd would erupt with a cheer that reeked of violence. Then as the two combatants dry humped each other for five minutes, people actually fixate on it like soccer fans on the World Cup. If by an act of God there were actually back-and-forth punching, the crowd would be as uncontrollable as a Cincinnati crowd waiting for the Who.

What a bunch of ingrates. I am sure at least 50% of them would vote for misogynistic violence if they actually voted or could mark an X. The best ones are wearing the infamous “Tapout” shirts that we see everywhere now. Only one or two guys should be allowed to wear that shirt. The others are skinny little tools whose Mom let them out of the basement after they finished their chores. If they were ever in an actual fight they would look like those tabloid photos of Gary Coleman in a coma. (Too soon?)

Note: If you want to take a girl out, hit the J Alexander’s out by 14-mile and Northwestern. The dining room has absolutely no TVs and proper ambiance and mood lighting. You can actually get a good meal and a bottle of wine for a decent enough price. Not too expensive to make you cringe but not too cheap to kill all chance of romance.

Picking up what you’re laying down, I, too, have reached a point that when I want to go out to the bar I can’t think of any where I am guaranteed a good time. The closest thing is Mr. B’s. I used to work there and know some friendly faces. They have reasonably priced imports and two-dollar pints of Bud or Labatt if you feel like slumming. Even here in redneck Waterford the ten-dollar martini has surfaced. Try hitting the Shark club. No real atmosphere, and even a 12-oz. domestic will cost you five bucks with tip. This is why no one goes out anymore. Money is tight everywhere and what’s the point of pissing away the electric bill on a night of no conversation, sipping on an Appletini?!

The redneck bars are OK for prices but try to have a conversation without using racial slurs and you’ll be branded a homo. The living-room couch looks much more inviting. I understand you miss the cigarettes from back in the day and I get it but you can’t take away my fun. I won’t do a complete recall of my smoking article, but I have the best time walking up to the entrance of a bar and seeing the unwashed masses huddled in a smoking circle. I immediately have to say “Wow, this many people still smoke. I can’t believe there are that many morons left in the world…”

It angers them but they won’t give up that last drag before going inside, so they’re not going to get into it with me. As I said, it is un-American to tell someone how to run their business and people should be allowed to smoke, but I am also allowed to diss them. Thanks for letting me rant. It is not as humorous as I try to be but it is tough to be funny when you don’t have the solution to the problems being discussed. Let me know when you want to try to do a beer hookup.

Stay gold, Ponyboy.

Pizza Man

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