Saturday, October 15, 2016

We Walk into a Bar in Nebraska

Nite Owl, Omaha
“I hear when they opened this place, they had a large screen and were trying to decide whether to use in for sports. But there are so many sports bars already. I ‘m glad they decided to use the screen for movies. Because I don’t like sports but I like movies.” Deborah was explaining why she liked the Nite Owl, our bar for Nebraska.

The film playing that day was Labyrinth, the Jim Henson cult favorite that features a young Jennifer Connelly along with David Bowie and a multitude of Muppets not named Kermit. Deborah said she’d never seen the whole film before, so she’d finally get to see the end of it that day. The Nite Owl plays cult films, things like The Goonies or The Big Lebowski (and one would hope, Buckaroo Banzai: Across the 8th Dimension).

There also is a place for cult art in the Nite Owl, with fine displays of black velvet paintings. And, of course, there are owls on display in the Night Owl.

You might assume that we went to the Nite Owl at night, because that would make good sense. After all, the place is open Monday through Saturday until 3 AM. Monica, one of the bartenders, told us that we would see “interesting people” later in the evening. But the happy hour is early, and I wanted to order the Totchos, tater tots with Mexican seasoning (I ordered a Birdhouse Slider as well.)

Totchos and birdhouse slider at Nite Owl in Omaha
Mindy and I ordered the cocktails on tap; I had the El Gringo and she ordered the Black Berry Gin and Tonic. (They also have PBR for $2.00 during happy hour, but we’d have to be paid a lot more than $2.00 to drink a Pabst Blue Ribbon. Or pretty much any other beer)

I saw a number of young people needing to show their I.D.s. When they ordered (No, they did not ask for our I.D.s.).  We found the people -- both employees and patrons -- at the Nite Owl to be quite friendly, so we had no problem finding people to ask answer our two weekly questions, “What makes for a good bar?” and “Whether you go or not, what makes for a good church?”

Jose, a bartender, said, “Many things go into making a good bar, but three of those things would be atmosphere, the people, and the drinks.” I asked him to be more specific about those three things. For atmosphere he said, “You should feel cozy and yet it should be fun. It should be intriguing and yet still welcoming.” For people: “By people I mean the staff and the customers. They should be friendly and welcoming.” As for drinks, he said, “There needs to be an eclectic selections, there should be cheap beer and nice beer, there should be cheap cocktails and high quality cocktails.” He had a hard time with what makes for a good church, “I don’t know. I don’t go.” But eventually he said what would make it a good church would be “acceptance.”

Another bartender, Monica, said a good bar has a good ambience, good cocktails, and friendly bartenders. She said it should be comfortable and not corporate looking; “it should be eclectic, unique,” she said, with a nod to the Nite Owl’s decor. As for what makes a good church, she values diversity. She thinks a church should be open minded and accepting of the gay community as well as of different races and ages.

Mindy spoke to one other bartender who took over when Monica’s shift ended (because we really like bartenders), Gunnar. He said he likes a bar with atmosphere, which for him means “having a place where you’re comfortable. Good drinks help!” When Mindy asked about a church, he said St. Margaret Mary’s is the only church he’s been to. He said he appreciates a church with dark wood, which he thinks feels cozy and “so dark you could go to sleep, and your mother won’t see you.” He appreciates a church with beautiful architecture.

We talked to customers as well. Earlier, I mentioned Deborah, a young woman at the bar with her friend, Irene. They both said the Nite Owl is their favorite bar.

“This is our bar,” Irene said. When asked what makes this a good bar, she spoke highly of the cocktails. She said it was okay for a bar to have a drink or two for “guys” like Bud Lite, but only a drink or two. This is where Deborah shared her appreciation for the movies at the Nite Owl. In response to what would make for a good church, Deborah said, “Comfy pews and good wine.”

Irene recommended a church from her home town, the First Baptist Church of Plattsmouth. She said the people there were quite friendly.

Shortly after we’d ordered, a young woman entered and went to the spot at the bar where people could orders things to go. She had a few minutes to wait, so I asked if she’d mind answering a few questions, and she pulled up a chair.

Sorry, Nite Owl, Candice did not name you as her favorite bar. She said her favorite place down the street was “more of a brewery.” When asked what she likes about the place, she said, “They remember my name. They know what I’m going to order, I don’t have to ask.” And she said they have very good beer, which they make. We talked a bit about bars and she said that bars are different at different times, but especially in Nebraska on Game Day (there is really only one Game Day, she said, and that’s when the Cornhuskers are playing). Then Candice would rather not be at a bar, but at someone’s house with friends. She’s not a football fan, but enjoys socializing during a game.

I asked Candice what would make for a good church, “I don’t know. They should serve beer. I’d probably go if they served beer. It might attract people.” I knew she was joking to a degree, but I asked her more about it. She said she’d been to a variety of churches; her parents were divorced and she’d had to go to different churches back in her youth. “Ugggggh,” was her feeling about the churches in those days. But she said, “I’d feel that a church that served beer was accepting. Everywhere should serve beer.”

We spent more time talking to Candice about her job and school, but then she realized the fries she had ordered to go were getting cold. Candice had said she like going to bars because she liked talking to people. I very much enjoyed talking to Candice.

One of the downsides to a new bar in a new state every week is that we are unlikely to see again the friends we meet. But I’m still very glad to have met Candice and the other folks at the Nite Owl.

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