The Bars are Back Baby! – by Heather Straub
- Don’s Drive-Inn Dive Bar and Daiquiris in Houston, Texas
As far as community involvement goes, it’s very possible that Don’s Drive-Inn takes the cake. Sharon and Chuck Jolly, the owners of this little dive, seem most excited that they’re able to offer events again. These include karaoke, their annual free crawfish boil, and not-for-profit benefits for grieving families.
Unfortunately, since talking with the owners on June 19, they’ve decided to close for two weeks out of an abundance of caution. They will be back in business again on July 6th.
But thanks to that interview, we have an idea of what that will look like.
Testing Ad Space Area
They’re at 50% capacity right now. The Jollys said that business has been pretty good, and they’ve even welcomed a few new faces. They admit the place has lost a touch of its usual charm because everyone wants to sit at the bar and interact, and they can’t!
I mean, it’s pretty frustrating when you go to a bar and there is no bar.
However, Sharon and Chuck say that most people are happy to be back and understand that, quite simply, “it is what it is.” They both believe the bar will recover fully from the pandemic, especially since they have so much outdoor space to work with.
Chuck encourages everyone to “check the social media” to stay up to date on changes and events.
- The Blaguard in Washington D.C.
These guys deserve an award for their great attitude and innovative spirit. The Blag’s social media presence is nothing but fun and uplifting. They’ve created the takeout hash tag #BlagInABag, and someone even took a picture of the bathroom so customers can reminisce.
The Blaguard’s huge front window has allowed this bar to create something truly unique: an adult concession stand. Bartender and social media manager, Nickos Papageorge, tells us their regulars are happy to have the bar available in whatever capacity they can get, but “they really want to be inside again.”
The feeling is mutual. However, The Blaguard isn’t ready to open their doors yet. The crew is in the process of coming up with a feasible plan to make reopening as safe as possible for staff and customers. Even though they are technically allowed to offer seating, they’re following the tried and true motto: safety first.
The decision to remain closed wasn’t an easy one. Nickos says that their “goals have shifted from making profit to just staying above water.”
Luckily, specialty drinks like “The BlagARita” (which they may keep post-pandemic) and awesome concession stand deals like 32oz beers for $8, buy a single get a double for all cocktails, and $4 ice cream sandwiches (yes, please!) have helped them stay afloat.
And people are still finding a sense of community at The Blaguard. Whether it’s walking together after a stop at the concession stand (masks intact) or helping The Blaguard win the BarredInDC March Madness Tournament for best bar in D.C., #BlagFam is a force to be reckoned with.
Nickos says that the future is uncertain, but they are going to do everything they can to stay in business. “All we can say is that we will try our very best and aren’t going to give in without a fight.”
- The Rustic Hut in Florence, Montana
The owner of The Rustic Hut, Jason Nickisch, was kind enough to speak with me on June 19th.
This “carpet bar” owner has a unique perspective because he divides his time between the more laid back, rural environment of Florence and the city of Missoula. They’ve been open since May 4th and can currently operate at 75% capacity until 12:30am. Patrons are able to sit at the bar with distance between groups.
Montana has a sparse population to begin with, so Jason tells us that oversight in Florence, when compared to the city, isn’t exactly strict. Some places aren’t even trying to adhere to the new guidelines, and since new cases of COVID-19 are lower in rural areas people seem more comfortable with taking the chance of mingling.
The Rustic Hut was allowed to provide to-go drinks during the shutdown, which helped, but Jason states that it’s not something he’ll rely on in the future even if it continues to be allowed by law. Providing this service also helped the folk at The Rustic Hut stay in touch with regulars.
“I think, if anything, [interaction] has increased,” Jason says. Of the three bars in town, Jason tells us one shut down completely, one opened on a limited basis, and The Rustic Hut still had regular hours which helped keep the sense of community intact.
The Dive Bar Tourist is pleased to report that The Rustic Hut has seen increased revenue each week and is on track to make a full recovery. Live music is back on Saturdays, and Jason is happy to have a place where people can gather and get back to some sense of normalcy. Jason says: “That’s what we’re here for.”
And when push comes to shove, that’s what we all love about our favorite dives. Come hell or high water—or coronavirus—they’re here for us.
We encourage you to get out and (safely) support your local dive bar.