Jukebox Skipping

Friday, December 27, 2013

Bar of the Year. HTD Hall of Fame. And 2013 Year in Review.

Exactly one year ago to the day, I walked into the Village Bar...a place I had never heard of before...and 365 days later it is the HitThatDive Bar of the Year.  The end.

Bar of the Year!
Well, there's actually more to the story of 2013 than that. A lot more...

What's odd is that the number of actual bar reviews in the the last 12 months is way off the pace from other years...but the amount of readers to the blog, followers on social media, and overall recognition of the site (including several contacts by Bar Rescue and Google) are at record levels and continue to grow.  So thank you to everyone!

This year was different is a few ways.  Oh sure, there were some always great bars that were reviewed including JD's Circle-In, some bar with no name in Puerto Rico, Aussie's Pub (Are you the fuzz?), and the unforgettable, and now closed (due to the passing of owner Betty), review of the Bar-M Corral in Loma, Nebraska.   So what made 2013 so different?

RIP Betty

Spring Stumble:  Usually, this is the only HTD event of the year.  And what a day it was!  Both buses sold out in hours, both buses broke down in minutes and everyone seemed to have a great time...from what they remembered.  

Haunted Hangover:  Combining my love of neighborhood bars, with an odd obsession with the paranormal, we again were able to sell out two buses in hours.  And then, spend an afternoon hunting ghosts while chasing beer with shots.

Office Christmas Party:  Through the generosity of many people and local businesses...we were able to throw two parties, raise more than $3,000 for local families in-need, and have a good old fashioned Christmas party that seemed to be a thing of the past.  

Good times at The Village Bar
Bar Rescue:  

No single event in the Omaha-area brought more fun for HTD in 2013 than the bumbling crew of Bar Rescue as our Barstool Telegraph seemed to dog them at every turn.  A special thanks to "Guy Incognito" for his unbelievable reports that made the whole thing so fun for me personally.  To this day, I have never met "Guy", but there is always a beer waiting for you if and when our paths do cross.

Bring me the head of Guy Incognito
  • Several mentions in the Omaha World-Herald including a great write-up of the Spring Stumble.
  • Radio appearances like this one on Q98.5
  • The always fun Podcasts with Wayne Brekke.
  • Even a local blog followed us around on the Haunted Hangover Tour
I'm sure I could ramble on this for a while, so I'll end it here.  On to the more important stuff...the HTD Bar of the Year...and the first four bars inducted into the HitThatDive Hall of Fame! 

2013's HTD Bar of the Year...The Village Bar: 

Last year, there was an online vote for Bar of the Year.  I decided to go a different route this year and just pick it myself.  The only real requirement is that it had to be reviewed after the last Bar of the Year vote...so The Village Bar just made the cut.  Next year's balloting and voting will be radically different, but more on that right after the first of the year.  

So why The Village Bar?  One...it felt like home before I ever walked in the front door.  "The neighborhood between 84th Street and 77th on Park Street reminded me of my hometown of Irwin, Pennsylvania so I was already encouraged before I parked in front of the Village Bar. The character of the place is evident immediately when you park out front; it’s a big old building, but not intimidating-looking in the least."

And two...my final thoughts on my way out the door for the first time.  "Antiques are antiques for a reason, because no one makes that type of quality anymore.  The same can be said for The Village Bar.  If you like a bar with an actual history that also serves as a community center (the way bars once did when this place was built) this is a must stop on your list.  Add to that cheap prices, great bartending and enough things to do to keep you happy if you get bored (how that would happen I have no idea)...and you can’t go stopping by here any chance you get."

One year later, and I still agree with my first impressions of the place.  I can now add that it's also a bar that I can go to and just hangout and talk with the regulars and staff that are now also my friends. And a very special thanks to Brock Hatterman, owner of The Village Bar, for doing everything in the last year from pouring me a beer (from the bottom up), letting me use his place repeatedly for my always half-brained event ideas, to helping hand-out Christmas presents to local families with me and my family this week. Thanks and congratulations to my friend Brock!

Finally, I thought it was time to also recognize the bars that helped to get HitThatDive on the map and then keep it going, even as I lost interest in it about two years ago. So here you go, the inaugural HTD Hall of Fame class...

HitThatDive Hall of Fame Members (Class of 2013):

Brass Monkey:  There would not be HitThatDive without the help of everyone at the Brass Monkey over the years.   The staff, regulars, and owner(s) were the original driving force to get people to read the site and follow on Facebook.  Even though Kevin and Maria, no longer own the bar, new owner Barry Hofmaster has always been a big supporter, even in the days before he owned the place.  Thank you for to everyone at the Monkey for adopting me as an honorary SOB.

The Elbow Room:   I forgot this story until Elbow Room bartender Jeff Novak reminded me of it at the HTD Office Christmas Party.  Two years ago I gave up on writing HitThatDive, deleted both the Facebook page and Twitter account, and basically forgot about ever logging in to see if people were even reading the old posts.  I was amazed to see how many people had been reading the review of "The Bow" and wrote a blog post asking what in the world was going on.  It turns out, that someone there stumbled across the old review and it had been making its rounds on social media.  For the first time, I didn't feel like I was just talking to a few assorted family and friends...and that was the thing I needed to kick my ass back in gear! 

Andy's Place:  Andy's is the bar that I need to go and sit every few weeks to just enjoy the people, bartenders and conversation around me. Where else but a bar like Andy's would I get invited to a women's golf tournament to ride in a cart and drink beer just for the hell of it?  And then, get invited back to the bar for a kickass steak dinner!  And even though I'm not a "regular" here, I am always greeted with smiles, handshakes and "Where the hell have you been?"... kind of like I am a regular.  

Jerry's Bar:  Jerry's was the 2012 HTD Bar of the Year, but owner Rob Rutar's vision for running the quintessential neighborhood bar is why it's on this list. Much like Brock at The Village Bar, I had never met Rob at this point last year. And in fact, the first time I reviewed a bar where Rob worked, I wasn't all that kind.  Flash forward to today, and I can call Rob on his cell phone to ask if I can use his place for something like the annual BlackOUT Friday and I immediately get the same response..."me casa es su casa".  

Thanks to all the new HTD Hall of Fame members...I appreciate everything you've done for me and this site over the years.   

What to look for in the new year...who knows?  Just when I think I know where this is all heading it takes a new direction...which is fine with me! Thanks for reading and following along everybody...you all are the reason this is so fun to do!

Scuba Steve

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

HTD's Office Christmas Party -- DETAILS TOMORROW

Not to be missed!

Bar Rescue in Omaha Final Recap -- PART 4

The final recap?  Really?  It seems like just yesterday that HitThatDive got a "hot tip" that some bar in Bellevue named O'Banion's was going to be the first bar in our area to feel the staged, faked and over-edited "wrath" of Jon Taffer.

A special thanks to the MANY people of the HTD Barstool Telegraph who sent tips in every from possible (practically 24 hours a day) regarding every single misstep of the bumbling Bar Rescue production crew.

The biggest thanks goes to "Guy Incognito" HTD's investigative reporter extraordinaire! I have yet to ever meet, or actually speak to Guy...which made his clandestine reporting that much more fun for me to wake up and read every morning.  So, for the final time on this subject, Guy the HitThatDive stage belongs to you...thanks for everything.


If you don't know by now, the HitThatDive "Office Christmas Party" for charity, will be held at The Village Bar on December 15th.  Tickets go on sale tomorrow right here at www.HitThatDive.com. For a simple $20 donation you get access to a private party at The Village Bar, limited edition t-shirt, drink specials, food, DJ, raffle prizes, Christmas show trivia contest, ugly sweater contest, Bad Santa handing out naughty gifts, Busch Light giveaways, Maker's Mark giveaways, dancing, singing and yes...butt photocopying!

But more importantly, you will be helping to provide three local families with basic necessities like food, clothing and furniture that they desperately need this holiday season.  When was the last time MY $20 ever got me that much during a bar review?  Answer...never.  Don't miss out, make sure to get your spot early!

The HTD Office Christmas Party...don't miss it!

Target #3: O'Face Bar

This double-wide shack in Council Bluffs is basically what you'd expect of an establishment with this name. Beer out of massive mason jars for $3.50 really isn't a bad deal, and in all honesty, I was actually enjoying myself here before Bar Rescue took it over later that night.

I (and I think most other people) had thought this particular night was supposed to be the stress test, but apparently filming was offset by a day, and this was the night where Taffer does his recon like a pervert hunched over his monitor in his dark SUV parked down the street.

Anyone who watches the show knows this is the night where Taffer spies through a camera feed of what's going on in the bar. In all episodes, when this happens, every infraction that could possibly be committed against Taffer's code of ethics is somehow executed beautifully by the bar’s staff while the cameras are capturing for Taffer's recon purposes. I always found it to be odd how that always worked out so well for him, but now I know why.

You see, leading up to the chaos, all was well in the bar. Everyone was acting normal, and I was seriously wondering why the Bar Rescue crew was even present. I knew something had to be happening since the lights were up and the music was off, but I just didn't know what. It was clear that it was not the stress test. I found myself thinking that if Taffer came in and started chewing out the staff, I'd genuinely feel bad for them, as everyone was being served and the employees were friendly enough.

But there was a noticeable difference when everything started going downhill. There was a really strange vibe, and everything about it seemed forced and over-the-top. Outsiders can be quick to say "Well that's just Council Bluffs for ya", but this was different. The suddenness of how everything unraveled was more than any coincidence could explain. It happened very quickly and was way too drastic.

I also think I saw the recon spies Taffer sent in, as they were put directly in harm's way when the bartender lit some sort of shots on fire and created a nice fireball that could've taken off their eyebrows. And then the fact that the Bar Rescue staff had cameras ready for these moments and then blocked the entrances when they knew Taffer was coming just seals the deal.

As to whether or not the staff knows ahead of time that Taffer is coming on your average episode of Bar Rescue, I'd say it's an emphatic yes. There is not a doubt in my mind. So when you see your average Bar Rescue episode and they seem surprised, maybe they're just surprised that he didn't walk in 15 minutes ago. Or they weren't expecting to see him until midnight. The TV show seems to give the impression that perhaps only the owner knows, but now I have a feeling that the staff is probably informed when they are asked to sign waivers and have cameras follow them around everywhere.

I wasn't able to make it to the stress test for O'Face, so I can't speak to what happened there. But I have three theories of what's going on with the recent development that Bar Rescue left town before completing the rescue:

1. Taffer walked away from this rescue in some sort of dramatic grand fashion that we will see on the episode. I heard through an interview that apparently there will be an episode that has yet to air that he does indeed walk away from one of his rescues. This interview was before O'Face's rescue, so perhaps O'Face will be his second time walking away. Let's face it, any place with a Barbie stripper pole probably isn't owned by anyone wanting to change the color of their stripes. And Taffer is a showman who needs to start being more unpredictable, being an even looser cannon for the sake of ratings. By introducing this whole idea that it's possible for him to abandon ship at any moment, a whole new element of surprise is added to the show.

2. Taffer had some sort of personal crisis or there was a very specific reason they needed to leave so they could return later. They might still come back and finish out the episode sometime after Thanksgiving. And, through the magic of TV, the timeline will still appear intact.

They were able to stay
3. Taffer and the crew pulled out when social media was getting too hot about their presence and spilling too much. I found it interesting that The Daily Nonpareil (Council Bluff's local newspaper) actually published a blurb earlier in the week that the grand reopening was going to be Friday. This was obviously untrue if the stress test wasn't on Tuesday like it normally is, as this would put them off of their 5-day shooting schedule and actually place the grand reopening on Saturday. Perhaps the Nonpareil received an early press release that fit with their original shooting schedule, but the Bar Rescue folks tried to change things at the last minute to get jerks like me off their scent, only to still have me tailing them.

Whatever the case, the truth will shake out in time. The O'Face staff is apparently mum on the whole ordeal, and I don't know how long that gag order will last, because obviously someone is going to leak the info at some point.

Overall, I both loved and hated this whole brush with reality television. I loved seeing the inner workings of a show I enjoy watching, but I hated experiencing the long waits and dealing with the ridiculousness of the Bar Rescue staff. I loved the suspense of seeing what would unfold next, but I hated how ugly the truth was when it came to what's staged and what isn't.

Most of all, I loved discovering Scuba Steve's operation at Hit That Dive and enjoyed participating in this odd chapter of Omaha's bar history. Thanks to everyone for reading these words and for your kind feedback, and special thanks to Scuba Steve for allowing me to take the stage for a few of his blog posts.

Keep reading Hit That Dive, because he will steer you toward all the REAL Omaha bars that are managed by competent people who genuinely give a damn about their patrons!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Bar Rescue in Omaha Final Recap -- PART 3

Coming December 15th!
By now, regular HTD readers have come to expect that when I say tomorrow, it can sometimes mean a week from tomorrow.  But, fear not, as promised seven days ago...here is Guy Incognito's recap of the always a sham taping of Bar Rescue.

*Side Note*  Tickets for HitThatDive's Politically Incorrect Office Christmas Party at The Village Bar in Ralston go on sale this Thursday.  It will be a great afternoon of booze, Bad Santa, and photocopied butts...but more importantly...every dime raised will be used to buy presents for local kids that might not get much else this year.  And, it will the only place you can get the greatest t-shirt you can find anywhere this holiday season...

Target #2: Oasis Hookah Bar (Taza Nightclub)

I made sure I participated in this bar's rescue after being burned at Sorties. I wasn't happy about what I saw and experienced at Sorties, so I was quite surprised when I practically walked right into the stress test for this one. There was hardly anyone there to stress the staff out! Turns out people don't show up at bars on very cold Tuesday nights to experience a bar documenting its hard failings at customer service.

Of my experiences throughout the three weeks, this seemed the least scripted. And why would it be? The whole purpose is to just let the merciless public in and bring the operation to a standstill so Taffer can rip into them over how much they suck. The producers aren't trying to frame anything as being pretty. They want this portion of filming to be raw as possible.

Just what we need
Unfortunately for the Bar Rescue folks, Oasis didn't fail that bad. The bartenders were producing drinks quick enough to keep up with everyone, although the servers were starting to fumble where they should be going. I think I had 4 different people wait on us throughout the night, but the fact is that they were keeping on top of things and being as courteous as possible about it.

Even with Taffer chasing them around and trying to dig up fodder for his wrath, they seemed mostly unrattled. I guess when you try to stir Midwestern folks, we just don't care to reciprocate anger with more anger. I did find it interesting that after Taffer had his final big blow-up of the night, as he walked away from it, his anger almost disappeared from his face immediately and turned into a huge grin as he approached who I assumed to be one of the producers, almost as if to say, "That was a good one, wasn't it?"

Not hard to memorize, I guess
I actually applaud the Oasis staff and management for persevering and seeming to actually be a good group of people who are perhaps in over their heads trying to run a business on a city block that is half-developed and littered with sketchy people waiting for buses that never seem to come. I don't know what the owner’s financial situation is, but I can't imagine this whole facelift was as much of a sham as Sorties appeared to be.

Whether or not the new Taza Nightclub will attract the Morocco-lovin' female demographic that likes squatting on ottomans with expensive cocktails for most of their evening remains to be seen. If the fact that most of the crowd walked out when the cameras left was any indicator, I'd say it might be time to pack up the hookahs and head further east, where you might get half a chance at getting steady foot traffic from the core Old Market area.

I will say the remodeling was a step in the right direction in terms of creating a more coherent theme. Once they add the hookahs back in, the Moroccan theme might not mean a damn thing if the old crowd wants to just come back and enjoy their old haunts.

When it came to waiting in line for this reopening, though, this did pour salt into old wounds and once again proved that the Bar Rescue staff just absolutely sucks at this whole process. Rudely padding the front of the line with friends, families, vendors, gypsies, clubbers, etc. in front of people waiting for hours to get in is simply inexcusable.

But I guess that's the bottom line when it comes to television. You want the pretty faces up front in that shot that lasts for barely a second. I was just happy to get inside (at 11:50 p.m.???), but was satisfied and ready to go home once I realized the service was actually worse and the overpriced drinks were not worth draining my bank account over.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Bar Rescue in Omaha Final Recap -- PART 2

In the now ongoing saga that is/was Bar Rescue in Omaha, we bring you our update on the first Omaha bar in the Taffer shooting gallery.  For those that don't remember, this is the one that got HTD in "hot water" with skinny jeans-wearing PR types in California...but more notably...this is the scene of our first interaction with Guy Incognito.

Since I wasn't at any of the Bar Rescue "events", I will let Guy give you the 411...

Guy Incognito Reporting...

I only kinda followed this bar's rescue, showing up for only the grand reopening. As a fan of the show, I originally just wanted to participate. When I got there, everything was dead quiet, and it felt like I had stumbled upon a homicide crime scene, where no one was talking and everyone was to stay away. It was clear security was in place and there was some sort of production going on, but the only people visible were security folks scattered around the parking lot.

What took place over the next few hours were complete frustration, and I started informing Scuba Steve about what was going on from my location. When Taffer finally appeared in what was an absolutely long and drawn-out process to line up the O'Banion's staff with their backs turned toward the new sign, I witnessed the first murder of my reality TV notions: multiple takes of the reveal!

Then they did two takes of the staff excitedly running up to the door like they were going to rush inside. The first time they did it, though, the owner ran up to the door like he was going to open it with the staff running behind him, but he never did. They all paused at the producers' request and then turned around and regrouped in a spot away from the door to do the approach again, but this time for real. Huh?

The shooting schedule was asinine. A moment that lasts 3 minutes in the show took about an hour to film. And that might be conservative. If this is supposed to uninhibited reality, why should it take that long to capture these moments if you could simply have cameras set up to get this in one fluid shot? You'd think they would want this to look as genuine as possible and capture raw emotions.

This was also my first brush with the incompetent security. Early on, I heard 9:30 would likely be opening time, but I foolishly stuck around thinking maybe that would be accurate. I was so wrong when they didn't admit anyone until around 11 p.m., and they hardly even took anyone from the crowd that had been waiting all night, basically giving these fans the middle finger as their "thank you" for sticking it out.

Does anyone honestly think that O'Banion's will remain Sorties Tavern? Granted, the more I've said/typed it, the more it has grown on me, but it's still not an ideal name from using an obscure military term. I don't doubt Taffer's noble effort will be to lure the local military personnel to this place for drinks, but do they really need a Disneyland vision of the Air Force to bring these people in?

I don't know, maybe it will, but what ever happened to just having a well-managed bar in close proximity to the base? These people don't care if you're just a cookie-cutter Irish dive bar. If you serve beer, they will come.

NOTE:  A full recap of Oasis Hookah Bar tomorrow...leading up to our blow-by-blow reporting of the brawl at the OFace Bar on Friday.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Bar Rescue in Omaha Final Recap -- PART 1

With Bar Rescue hightailing it out of the Omaha area faster than a hobo grabbing for a ham sandwich, we decided to relive the greatest thing to ever happen to the readership of HitThatDive...and that is the three weeks that their buffoonish production crew spent in and around the Omaha-area.

I will say, in all sincerity, a very special to Jon Taffer for busting the readership of HTD through the ROOF...and just before we launch a new site and start selling ads!  SCORE!

As always, our special four-part recap of the events of Bar Rescue in Omaha are led by HTD Chief Investigative Correspondent "Guy Incognito".  But, just who is Guy Incognito, and why did he dog the production crew of Bar Rescue as heavily as he did?  Well, let's have him give it to you in his own words.  So Guy...by now...you know the drill.  The bar floor is yours...

How To Fool The Bar Rescue Crew Time and Time Again

"With the future of O'Face Bar hanging in the balance and Bar Rescue nowhere in sight, I guess it's time to sit down and digest what transpired over the past three weeks.

For anyone climbing out from under their rock, clean yourself up and come back here when you're done. Then read this for a quick summary of what has happened: O'Banion's Bar & Grill, Oasis Hookah Bar and O'Face Bar -- all local bars that are allegedly struggling to the point of requiring intervention and also happen to start with the letter "O" -- were visited by Jon Taffer and the rest of the folks from the popular SpikeTV show, Bar Rescue. You don't need to watch the show to put together the reason for the visit, as long as you read my last (very long) sentence correctly.

To be honest, it was complete coincidence that I happened to find out about this going on after I plugged "Bar Rescue Omaha" into Google three weeks ago out of morbid curiosity to see if anyone has ever talked about the show visiting Omaha, and lo and behold, I hit an EXCELLENT Facebook page called Hit That Dive that was discussing it back in June. But wait! There were recent posts that picked up momentum in October that it was happening soon! Then came the realization it was happening NOW!
Bar Rescue is Staged?

The problem is that I don't believe in destiny or fate, so I am left to simply believe that Jon Taffer must've directly beamed a psychic singing telegram through my TV and into my brain with him tap-dancing and bellowing the Nebraska fight song, while wearing a red sequined tuxedo with a top hat and balancing monkeys on his shoulders that are drinking expertly-mixed martini cocktails out of glassware made by the ThunderGroup while he cautiously dances through a maze of butt funnels. It is honestly my most sound theory as to how I came across this information with such perfect timing.

Okay, so full disclosure: I actually really like Bar Rescue as a television show. I enjoy watching it, I watch it every Sunday and I find it very entertaining. I appreciate a lot of the interesting points Jon Taffer makes in regards to how to run a business better, and the idea of "bar science" that he provides can be pretty insightful, whether it's real economics or total b.s. It is, however, reality television, which means that it's an altered reality.

Or at least it's the reality that the cameras allow you to see, often cutting out a lot of significant parts that might sway the viewers in the direction that the producers don't want us to go. They go to pain-staking efforts to establish this simple premise for the show: Taffer is God, and everyone else are idiots.

Bring me the heads of Guy Incognito and Scuba Steve!

So you're probably asking after reading my write-ups about these events: why all the hate?

I don't consider it hate so much as I do just watching their operation in action and laughing at the absurd reality the production of this show exists in. It wasn't until this experience that I realized I finally had answers to questions that I always had in the back of my mind, but was too afraid to ask, for fear it would ruin the magic. I think anyone reading this who watches the show regularly knows what I'm talking about.

If you don't want to know the answers to these questions, then you probably don't want to read my write-ups about my experiences with the show. Ignorance is truly bliss when it comes to finding out what the reality is behind reality shows. If there are times you thought the timing of something was too good to be true, it most likely was staged or edited to look that way.

So let's go back through Bar Rescue's three local targets."

Coming later today...full recap of O'Banion's/Sorties Tavern...

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Hideout Lounge, Omaha -- REVIEW

Hidden for sure
320 S. 72nd Street
Omaha NE 68114
402 391 2554

A few days ago, Tom Jackson from The Hideout Lounge posted a picture on the HTD Facebook page which ultimately turned out to be "an ass shaft" out of the bar's claw machine duct taped to the top of Stanley Cup replica with the words "Hit That Dive" written in Sharpie on the ass shaft itself (Lord Stanley would be so proud).  ASSuming (get it) that was an invitation to drop by the bar to write down my impressions of the place, I immediately let Tom know I would be there the following day.

As it turns out, I raised the eyebrows of a few regular readers by letting the bar know that I would be stopping by because A) I would stand out like a sore thumb and B) HTD reviews, for the most part, are always done anonymously...and the bar du jour never gets a warning ahead of time.  I have said, through social media a few times, where I would be ahead of time. But, as for the sticking out like a sore thumb part...I (as always) needed to channel my inner Irwin M. Fletcher aka "Fletch" to make sure my presence wasn't detected.

Decor by Mr. Blutarsky
For me, the real test is to see if I can get in and out of a bar without really being noticed.  As far as I can tell, I usually do a decent job of blending in with the regulars even though it never fails that I get the "who the hell are you" look every time I walk into a new bar for the first time.  Oh, I still get that look at bars I've been to before too...wait...or do I not blend in as well as I thought?  Anyway...

PROS:  Reminded of the great Double Down Saloon in Vegas. The prevailing "who gives a shit what people think let's have fun" vibe.

CONS:  A bit hard to find.  Not necessarily the bar for everyone.  

First Impressions:  All I really know about this place is from the well done video by OmahaNightout Guide...so I at least have an idea what to expect when I open the seeming giant wooden doors.  The bar itself is in the corner of a strip mall, but within two seconds you will notice this is NOT a strip mall bar...in the least.  Remember those days of getting drunk at field parties and concocting a plan for you and all of your asshole buddies to buy a bar and live in it?  Chances are, it would look pretty much like this...including the fact that there was not a single non-dude anywhere to be spotted. (FYI: Two cute girls did show up toward the end of my visit)

Looking good to me
The Bar:  In looking at my meager notes from my trip here, I noticed that I wrote it reminded me of the toga party scene from Animal House in the basement of the Delta House. Part bar, part music venue...and all dude...I dug this place from the moment I sat down.  They have five beers on tap, all with cups on top indicating (in most bars) that the keg is empty.  There are more than enough pitchers hanging from above the bar to drown Larry Kroger (Detla Tau Chi name Pinto)...several times over. It's not a huge place, but there is plenty of room to just sit and hang out...play cards...or watch a show (if there was one that night) on the stage in the other room.  Of note...it's impossible to miss the well-lit picture of "The Most Interesting Man in the World" hanging on the one wall.

The Crowd:  At some point I was waiting for "Irish" Micky Ward (played by Marky Mark, of course) to walk through door at any second.  Want to fit in immediately?  Easy. Hat. Hoodie.  Beer in hand...simple as that.  Led by owner (and ringleader) Dave Blackman, the regulars are here to drink, smoke, play cards on the pool table and not give a shit about much else.  This sort of bare-knuckles approach to bar life might not be everyone's cup of tea...but don't let that scare you off either. Dave, in particular, was great to sit and talk with between hands of cards and watching the action on TV during the Husker/Penn State game.

In the name of love?
Service:  Need a beer?  Someone will get it for you. Usually it was Dave, but it seemed like anyone would grab you another round if Dave was doing something else. Actually, using the word "service" almost seems out of place.  If you wanted a beer, you got one in no time flat.  "Service" almost sounds too fancy for The Hideout.

Price:  Normally, I would have been drinking one of the beers on tap, but like I said there were cups on all five handles, so I went with a bottle of domestic beer that set me back $2.75.  Looks like they have decent specials including a happy hour that runs M-F 5:00-7:00. They also do daily shot and beer specials that can get you a $3.00 shot of Polish or a $2.50 Rolling Rock tallboy.  Check the sign on your way in, or just ask someone, I'm pretty sure everyone around you knows what the cheap drink is at any given point of the day.

Food: Come here thirsty...hungry...not so much.

Entertainment:  This is a music venue, so check before you show up, because there may be a touring punk band and there also may be a cover.  Show up on a non-gig night and there's a pool table, dartboard, and the crane game where the ass shaft came from.  There aren't a ton of TVs, but still enough that is wasn't an issue to watch the Huskers sneak out a win in overtime.  For the Chicago sports fans reading this, The Hideout is most definitely a place you will want to be at if and when the Cubs ever make the World Series again in your lifetime.

Better than anticipated
Bartender Chat:  Nothing all that major, from what I recall.  Just sports and that sort of idle bar
chatter.  I'd go back just to shoot the shit with Dave again...other than the fact that he's a Chicago Blackhawks fan...he seemed like a great bartender/owner that was cool to me the entire time a sat in his bar.

Restrooms:  Kind of disappointed on this one.  I was under the impression from several reviews on Yelp that these would really be pretty bad, but as it turns out, they were fine enough in my book. Maybe I've become desensitized to bad crappers in bars over the last few years...but I swear these ones were fine to me.

How Far Far Did My $20 Go?:  This was not my first stop of the day, so I didn't make it through my 20 bucks...BUT...time it right and you're looking at eight tallboys (don't forget to tip) and that is one hell of a deal!

Final Impressions:  Any time I walk into a bar and am immediately reminded of the great Double Down Saloon in Las Vegas...that's a very good thing.  Every city needs at least one bar that has a "punch you in the face mentality" that The Hideout has.  I'm not saying that you WILL get a punch in mouth...I'm saying that a bar that knows what it is, knows what it wants to be to its customers, and probably doesn't give a shit about what you think if you don't like this approach to running a bar.

Oh sure, you can name a bunch of bars with that "vibe" but I bet they can't pull it off in the successful manner that Dave and crew do here.  Like I said, this place isn't for everyone...which is just what I assume they want.  Even though there's a huge PBR sign on the front door...I guarantee you there will NEVER be an onslaught of hipsters walking in here.  In fact, think of a hipster bar and then think the complete opposite... THAT'S the Hideout (just with PBR specials).


Thanks for the invite!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Haunted Hangover -- RECAP

Hopefully, by now, everyone is fully recovered (and accounted for) after the Sunday Funday that was HitThatDive's Haunted Hangover.  Thank you to everyone that made this one of the most memorable HTD events, that the majority of people had a hard time remembering in the morning.  Which is always my way to say...let's do this again!

Below are just a handful of photos that people shared in the social media contest for the final two bottles of Jim Beam Devil's Cut and Jacob's Ghost.  So, the real question is...who are the winners? Well, that's easy, just scroll through all the pictures and see if your name is there.  And the winners are...

...Marcia Ponciano Wallace and Raychael Workman...congratulations to both of you!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Behind the Scenes with Bar Rescue in Council Bluffs -- OFace Bar

Guy Incognito was hard to spot last night.
If you still have even the slightest notion that "reality" television is real, please stop reading now.  However, if that's the case I assume that still you believe in the tooth fairy, that www.healthcare.gov is functioning properly and that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is a sexy, sexy man.  

Covering the phony-baloney exploits of Bar Rescue is becoming as tiring and boring as the show itself.  HOWEVER, as long as they are in the area we will cover their every move because it has been a HUGE boost in readers to this here blog!  Hey Taffer, where can I send you a fruit basket? Your crews bumbling ways have done more for HitThatDive than a hoard of brawling drunk monkeys could have ever done!

As always, I will hand it off to the incomparable Guy Incognito for his always fantastically entertaining play-by-play of the evening's ringside events.  Guy, the greasy Barbie stripper pole is all yours Kemosabe...

"I was coming down off my Moroccan high from last week at the Taza Nightclub, only to reinsert myself into madness tonight at the O'Face Bar. I arrived with full confidence that tonight was the stress test, but I was so wrong.
There really wasn't a lot of action when I arrived. Just a couple cameras, security people and a waiver table. Business as usual at the O'Face, I guess.

Upon entering the bar, it was surprising that there was only one camera closer to the back of the bar, and that was it. It was also strange that I was wandering into a stress test where people were sitting right away and there was hardly a crowd. Taffer was also completely absent. Hmm...

I actually enjoyed the atmosphere, as I can appreciate the charms of a good dive bar. A mason jar full of beer is actually not a bad deal for $3.50. Plus, y'know... you're drinking out of a mason jar.

Something felt really odd about the whole thing, though. The service was good and the people were friendly, and it wasn't long until there were actually no cameras anymore. I couldn't quite wrap my head around it. Did they already film for the day??? This didn't seem like a Taffer-approved bar at the moment.

I was still stuck on the notion that tonight was the stress test, but there was nothing stressful about it, and there were no Bar Rescue celebrities to guide/yell at the O'Face staff. There were quite a few people there, and it was clear that most of them were not regulars, but they weren't overwhelming the bar in the least. I was wondering if perhaps there was a "surprise" stress test where a whole bus of people were going to unload and grind the operation to a halt. But after awhile, I felt like I had been duped and was really confused as to what happened.

O-dear Face!

Despite my reservations, though, they had the telltale signs that they were filming at that location, and still perhaps going to film there: the houselights were up and the music was off. But my faith was dwindling, and I was ready to bid my fair Council Bluffs friends adieu and be on my way. And that's when things got weird.

First off, the owner would not stop ringing some god forsaken bell at the end of the bar, like Tio Salamanca in Breaking Bad. Apparently that was her signal that she wanted a drink, so it would only make sense that all patrons would have to wait for her to wet her muzzle before the rest of us could order our drinks. It is also apparently impossible for her to walk behind the bar and pour her own.

This ringing seemed to be escalating and people seemed to be getting louder. All of the sudden the owner was on the loud speaker insulting the size of the manager's manhood and then taunting him into taking a shot straight from the Jagermeister machine. Wha-??? People were cheering and hooting and hollering. Seriously, is this business as usual? Because I wouldn't know!

Then the house music came on and I noticed the camera was back in the building. Girls were dancing seductively to the music, with one girl getting up ON the bar and dancing like a stripper -- if only her mother had sprung for ballet lessons like the rest of her friends!

Through all of this, the regulars could be overheard complaining about how awful the bar had become with the poor management. People started getting restless and arguing and getting progressively louder.

Then apparently a fight broke out between one of the bartenders (a female) and some other woman. They went outside to settle things the street-smart way, but woe was them when Jon Taffer showed up out of nowhere to get in their faces and scream at them. Then the owner was called outside to get Taffer'd herself. It was fun to watch how far his eyes could bulge as he got right in her face and screamed at her for what seemed like several minutes.

At this time, we were all held in the bar and told we couldn't leave the building. This was getting ridiculous.

From what I understand, the owner was forced to fire the battle-prone bartender. The sequence of everything is a blur, but I know the owner came back in and was in a shouting match with the manager, and they were now magically wearing microphones. They may have been wearing them all night, but I finally just noticed them at this point. The argument seemed contrived, and they bickered back and forth at each other.

Then the cops showed up (in like 6 cop cars) to remove the emotional trainwreck of a bartender because she wouldn't leave the premises. The cameras mostly stayed on her and the altercation. After all that drama, Taffer had disappeared. I assume somewhere in his shouting match with the owner, he probably said something about how he was disgusted with her and wouldn't come back until tomorrow to resume his work.

So, to recap, I was having a pleasant night at the O'Face before having my senses assaulted by complete drama. It seemed like more than a coincidence that O'Face was happily going about its divey ways before suddenly hitting a mega snafu that would spiral out of control like a Shakespearian tragedy where everyone loses. But hey, at least the cameras happened to be there at the exact right time to capture all of that!

It was fun to be there for recon night, but I wish Taffer would've made it into the building so I could've heard what else he had to say. So I suppose that puts the stress test on pace for Wednesday night and the grand reopening on Saturday night.

My attendance for either is questionable, but don't completely count me out."