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

1 comment:

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