“I just don’t really think of us as a college bar,” laughs owner David Thorne, “but hey.”
For 26 years, Thorne has owned Bar Bar in City Market.
“Obviously I’m a bit older,” he says. “At 18 we were legal to drink, so I don’t see much of the college crowd because they’re all graduates or beyond—at least the legal ones. I guess I don’t really see us in those terms as a college student because most of the college students are seniors or grad students—they’re more serious about their work and less about the drinking.”
Of course, it’s easy for its patrons to see why Bar Bar is ideal for college students. The bar is not a gimmicky bar—it just serves you cheap drinks fast.
“Now you’re seeing the rise of these cocktail bars, which, I love the craft, it’s amazing,” says Thorne. “I spent almost 30 years behind a bar, and I love bartending, but I don’t have the time to put 15 minutes into making a drink, and most people don’t want to wait 15 minutes for a single drink. Or you have to price it so high that it’s okay, you can serve one customer at a time versus volume. And the Bar Bar is volume—it’s a high-volume, high-traffic venue.”
Another perk of the Bar Bar is the dance floor that Thorne added to the back room in 2000.
“We were noticing that at 11 o’clock, the crowd was just leaving because the women wanted to dance somewhere, so they were going to Deja Groove and other place, and the guys are just going to go where the girls go,” remembers Thorne. “So we put the dance floor in. Then it became more of a dance destination and less of a bar for a while. We’re trying to maintain that balance.”
While myriad bars have opened and closed in the span of 26 years, Bar Bar has remained a port in the storm of downtown development, a reliable watering hole that doesn’t play into trends.
“The location certainly plays a huge part,” says Thorne. “Over the years, it’s remained somewhat relevant to the downtown scene. I like to think a lot of it has to do with we try to keep the essence of the bar what we think a bar should be, which is just a place to drink and enjoy yourself without being gimmicky or what’s the newest fad. We’ve never been like, ‘Oh, let’s try to be a cigar bar.’ We’ve never aspired to be anything other than just a bar.” – Rachael Flora
Runner-up: El-Rocko Lounge