Saturday, April 23, 2016

Dean and Mindy walk into a bar in Kentucky

the wrigley taproom and eatery in Corbin, KY
The Wrigley Taproom and Eatery, Corbin, Kentucky
Corbin is new to the bar thing. It's not new to the drinking thing, of course. I talked to a woman who remembered bootleggers selling to twelve year olds when she was a kid, so the drinking got done even back when the county was "dry." Corbin has only been "wet" for the last two years. (There are also "moist" counties that allow the sale of alcohol, but it can't be consumed on the premises.) The political battles of prohibition continue county by county to this day. (We came across something similar when we walked into a bar in Dodge City.)

we also ate cinnamon pretzel tots at the wrigley
Mindy and I had a hard time deciding which bar to go to. Usually, our preference is to go to a place that is mostclearly a bar and not a restaurant. If you go into a place, and all they sell is alcohol in glasses, you are certainly in a bar. But if they sell food and drink, is it a bar?

Frankly, when we first got to town, we were looking for food and drink, because we were more than ready for supper. Stumbling upon Sanders Park and realizing that Corbin is the home of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Sanders' original cafe became the place we had to eat (they had a KFC museum as well). But where to drink? (Like most KFCs, the mothership just has a soda machine.)

we could hear community happening from across the street
After we ate, we parked the car and took a walk down Main Street. On this particular night (a Tuesday), the wine bar was closed (open Thursday, Friday and Saturday only). Another place had a bar area separate from the eating area, but those stools were empty. We kept walking, and soon, even from across the street, we could hear misic and conversation: The Wrigley Taproom and Brewery was hopping. Still, there was that dilemma. Not only were there many people eating dinner, there were many families with little children eating dinner. Still, it seemed our best option in town, and we weren't sure what other opportunities we'd have during the rest of the week, since we'd be far from towns the rest of the week.

So we went to the bar in the restaurant and took our stools. And there were beers, shots, and mixed drinks available without ordering food -- so we hereby declare it a bar. Even though we were sitting between people eating food, they also had drinks. 

It took a bit of time to order our drinks because the staff was short for the crowd, and because all food is ordered from one end of the bar. Jerry, part of the waitstaff, asked if we were visiting. When Mindy explained that we were visiting a church and bar in every state, he told her, "There's a church in Manchester where they still handle snakes." When he wasn't too busy, she asked what he thought made for a good bar, and he said the variety of drinks and the atmosphere (for example, if you want a dive bar, you'll be looking for a dark place with bad juke box music). For a church, though he doesn't go, he said he'd look for kindness and acceptance.

I ordered a Whiskey Sour because in Kentucky it seemed I should have something with bourbon, and Mindy ordered a Cucumber Refresher because she was told it would be tasty (which she found it to be) and because she had an old fashioned last week (in Tennessee).

When I asked the two women next to me at the bar if I could ask them about churches and bars, one of them, Ruth, laughed that she went to church with one of the owners of this bar. And Marsha said that she wasn't the one to ask because she wasn't a bar person, she's an old woman. (She probably wasn't older than me, so, um, never mind.) They were both glad that there were finally bars in town.

Ruth said she likes some of the same things in this bar that she likes in her church. She likes that both are relatively small with friendly people. She likes a small church, though there weren't as many programs for her kids. She also appreciates that her church doesn't consider things like drinking a sin (again, something in common with The Wrigley). She also likes that her church does outreach projects, like packing backpacks of food for those in need.

Marsha, in spite of not being a bar person, is currently more of a bar fan than she is a church fan. She quit attending church regularly because of a variety of things. When her teenage daughter was asked to leave the worship team at their church after other teens were asked to join. Marsha said she tried to talk to the pastor about the matter, but he refused. That happened at least a decade ago, but the church has done other things she hasn't cared for since then, like selling the parsonage and buying the pastor a house.

Marsha's husband, Otis, had more to say about what makes for a good bar. He likes a place that is relaxed and not pretentious. He's walked into bars in DC and NYC. where he says he sensed pretension, so he turned right around and walked out. I asked him where he'd gone to bars when Corbin was dry, and he said he and his friends would drive to Lexington or Knoxville.

When asked what would make for a good church, Otis said that, like a good bar, a good church should lack pretension. He said a church shouldn't be political, but he's never been to a church that wasn't. He said he was more able to worship God in his car or his living room than in a church.

While I was talking to customers, Mindy was talking to one of the owners, Kristin, who said something that makes a bar successful and fun is creating intentional community. In making The Wrigley, the owners designed for this, making a "family table" which runs the length of the room and is narrower than usual, where people are naturally encouraged to talk to each other. The only menu is on the wall behind the bar, where people stand together to order. The Wrigley is a community hub; Bible studies are held there, wedding rehearsal dinners are held there. Kristin said if you can create community, "people will run to it."

Mindy asked her what makes for a good church, and she answered again with community. "I go to a church where I might not agree with all their core beliefs, but they're family. The church is supposed to be a family in the community."

So we're glad we decided on The Wrigley, and for the evening, we were part of its community. (By the way, while we were talking, Ruth invited Marsha to come to her church.)


  1. Great writing! Create a community and people will run to it. Yes! Jim finds that community in Cross Fit. Maybe you guys should check out a cross fit "box" in your travels and check out the community there. I like the response of the lady who focuses on the community and friendship rather than having to believe all the same things as the church does. Sometimes the beliefs are just that - beliefs and opinions.

  2. Yup. I didn't expect community to be as common a desire in bars as it is, or that I would leave most bars feeling I'd made friends. Cross Fit sounds interesting! We'll have to look into that. Thanks!