Friday, July 6, 2007



by Tom Schreck, author of On The Ropes, A Duffy Dombrowski Mystery

My main character’s home away from home is AJ’s Bar. It got me thinking about bars, the role they play in our culture and how the kind I like aren’t as easy to find as they used to be.

Here’s one man’s opinion on bars.

I love bars.

Bars should be dark. There should be enough bar stools.

There should be a TV that everyone can see and it should be on sports or the news. Nothing else.


The stools should have backs to them. There should be a brass railing or step for your feet.

There should be no frozen drinks or drinks with names like "Kamikazee", "Orgasm" or "Sex on the Beach."

If you want to or need to do a shot, it should be of a whiskey.

The bar should have today's paper.

The draft should be cold with a head.

There should be short narrow glasses.

If there's a juke box it can have different types of music but there must be Elvis, Sinatra, Bobby Darin (doing Mack the Knife), Waylon and Willie and the Temptations.

Regulars have their own seats. They aren't assigned or designated, they are understood.

The bartender can be a wise guy or quiet or in between but he has to serve the drink you want when you want it. He doesn't have the luxury of waiting until the inning ends or the home team punts.

The food can't be good for you.

If you answer the phone the proper response is always "I'm not sure if he's here. Let me see."

Don't stand in the spot where the bartender and the waitress have to go in and out of.

If you like esoteric beer from different countries or small breweries fine but don't talk about it. It is beer.

If you're new realize your rank and pay attention to it.

When you have a broken heart you can talk about it... once.

You can't bring a kid or an infant in with you. It's not cute and it's not the place for them even if they're quiet.

A bar should have one of the following; Schlitz, Pabst, Old Style, Schaefer or Stroh's.


Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Excellent description of a real bar, Tom. And I have been in many of them, especially when I was younger. But it seems to me these real bars are much more prevalent in the east and Midwest than here in LA LA land where cosmos and appletinis rule and people are judged by the brand of vodka they drink. But where in your portrayal is the dart board or pool table? Both well worn, of course.

Mark Combes said...


I'm with you brother! But I'm partial to bars with no walls - literally.

Copy this link into your browser and you'll see what I mean.

It has a sign above the toilet that reads: "Emergency Exit Only."

Beach bars are my haunts - but your rules still apply....

Joe Moore said...

Tom, can I still put a lime wedge in my Corona? :-)

Mark Terry said...

I'm partial to Corona, too, although my wife pretty much is a Canadian beer drinker. I'm also partial to Sam Adams, especially Sam Adams Cherry Wheat.

Schlitz? Jesus, man. That shit's chewy!

Tom Schreck said...

If someone put a gun to my head I'd admit to drinking Corona with a lime but it's painful to admit.

Schlitz is chewy--you say that like its a bad thing.

I guess walls aren't necessary unless you're in the Northeast 11 months out of the year.

I actually prefer no pool table or darts though they have their place.

They tend to get in the way of drinking.

Keith Raffel said...

Like the post, Tom. Can I try to relate it to mystery writing? Can you write mysteries in this ideal bar?

I'm not crazy about the beers you select. Schlitz, Pabst, Old Style, Schaefer or Stroh's? Maybe once upon a time. But with the many microbrews around that taste so much better, please give us more choice than this!

Mark Combes said...


The bar in the link sits in the middle of Lake Superior. Well, okay, not in the middle - but it's on an island in Lake Superior. And it's only open in the summer so yes, walls do come in handy....

Does this count as a bar?

But I'm suspecting that the bars you are talking about don't have websites....

Tom Schreck said...


I didn't say you had to drink those beers--they should just be available.

Besides you're operating on the conception that beer has to taste good?

As for writing in these bars...let's just say a whole lot of background research has been garnered there...

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

The next time we're all together, we must go drinking... and Tom get to choose the place.

Re beer: I prefer Sam Adams, Anchor Steam or Negra Modelo. The only thing I like about Schlitz is the name.

Tom Schreck said...

I don't Sue Ann...those are kind of woosy beers....

Next week in NYC you might find me at Jimmy's Corner of Time Square--one of the fe remaining things that are still cool about that area.

Great jukebox, cheap beer, weird people, and a guy behind the bar who has handled some of the best boxer's ever...

Candy Calvert said...

Hmmm . . . why am I suddenly hearing theme music, and the words, " . . . Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name . . . and they're always glad you came... where everybody knows your name . . . "

Set 'em up, Sam--I mean, Tom.


Felicia Donovan said...

Unlike my main character in The Black Widow Agency who admittedly has a little "problem," I don't frequent bars which is odd since I used to be a homebrewer and love a well-crafted beer, but if ever I do, they'd better know how to properly pull a Guinness with a two-part pour and served at the proper temp - not too cool.

No one has mentioned "cop bars" which have their own special requirements and which I've been to a few times. The owner has to be retired from the job. The location has to be well-known by way of mouth so the cops know that the old green wooden door down the back alley is the place to go but the bad guys don't. The stools facing the door are for cops only. The wait staff should be all female, cute and very tolerant, but the bartender should be a guy, preferably also retired from the job. There has to be a private room for dignity's sake in case someone overdoes it. The food should be plentiful and served quickly. The beer must be cold and cheap. Anyone who walks through the door will be treated with suspicion until recognized by someone in the room. If not, the conversation will fall until the identity of the new person is established. Absolutely no sidearms displayed and never any uniforms.

Tom, Schlitz? Pabst? You're killing me...

Bill Cameron said...

I noticed you said it had to have beer on draft, but then you didn't list any actual beers.

Tom Schreck said...

The drafts need to have at least one of the one's I mentioned plus Bud, a Canadian, maybe Guiness and perhaps the regional beer as long as it isn't a foo- foo micro.

Bill Cameron said...

Foo foo micro? You mean, actual beer? What do you have against beer?!

Joe Moore said...

I never realized that drinking beer was so complicated with rules and such. Back in college, the only rule we had was: "Rules, we don't need no stinkin' rules!" When it comes to beer, I still refer back to that one. :-)

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Has anyone noticed that the Inkspot posting that has garnered the most comments and interest has been one about beer and bars?

Proves what I've said all along... writers drink.

Tom, I still stand beside my choice of beers. And Dewars for the hard stuff (on the rocks, no water ever).

Felicia Donovan said...

Has anyone read "Hemingway & Bailey's Bartending Guide to Great American Writers?" Interesting perspective on how writer's get lit...erary.

No hard stuff for me. I'll take the "foo-foo" craft beer on tap, not too cold, anytime: Smuttynose, Geary's, Redhook, Sam Adams, Guinness, Bass Ale, Killian's, etc. The bitterer the betterer. I draw the line at fruit beers like the lambrics. If I want to drink fruit, I'll dip into a nice glass of Merlot or Cabernet. The two should not be mixed.

Joe Moore said...

Good point, Sue Ann. From now on all my posts will be about whiskey.

Tom Schreck said...

Sue Ann,

You defintely can have a straight up scotch...

that'll put hair on your chest

er...I mean..well, you know what I mean

Bill Cameron said...

Beer is the Elixir of Life, second in importance only to coffee.

Mark Terry said...

I pop in today to notice 21 posts!!!??? Now 22?

Oh man. I'm posting on Wednesday. I was thinking something about book marketing, writing...

Hmmm. Single malt versus double?

Best type of tequila to make a Margarita?

I'd better start my research tonight.