Saturday recap: A return to the Tap Room

2003 and 2004, my second and third years Downtown, were magical years for me. At that time I did not yet have a large friend group which I hung out with every day, although the beginnings of that friend group had started at Sleep Out Louie’s Sunday brunch. Sometimes I would go to Sleep Out Louie’s for happy hour, but that crowd was mostly lawyers and more often than not I would end up sitting there by myself. On the weekends I would wander south to Earnestine & Hazel’s and hang out there; it was an eclectic enough place that I found it easy to meet people. I would go to the original Raiford’s at Main and Vance. I had been going there since 1997 so the place already felt like home to me. I went to the Flying Saucer a couple of times a week, and became a member of their UFO Club during this period. I was much more shy than I am now, and the place intimidated me a little. However, I would go when Jim was behind the bar (he’s still there) or when John Haley was managing (he now manages Bardog), or when my favorite servers Jenn B and Jean (Slider Inn Jeannie) were working.

One day in 2003, I was sitting at the window of the Saucer when my friends Shane and Leigh, two of the members of the Sleep Out’s Sunday brunch crew, walked past. “Hey Paul, we’re about to roll up to the Tap Room and shoot some stick,” Shane said. “You’re welcome to join us.”

The Tap Room is a hole-in-the-wall bar on Beale Street, the sidekick of King’s Palace Cafe that serves the same menu. They have about 25 beers on tap, including the Cadillac of beers, PBR. There’s a long bar with about 15 seats, TVs, tables, and a pool table. It’s one of the least touristy places on Beale, although given the location, the place is bound to get them. It’s about 50% locals/50% tourists, or at least it was in 2003. They have a mug club where you buy a mug that they hang behind the bar. From that point on, you get a dollar off every beer you order, and the mugs are 22 ounces so you get an extra six-ounce pour when you are in the club.

I immediately took to the place. I became friends with the bartenders who worked there at the time. The first one I met was Darrell (NightHawk). He was also a wrestling fan and he and I would watch WWE Monday Night Raw together. “That’s a big boy,” he would often say as wrestlers like The Big Show and Brock Lesnar made their way to the ring. Another bartender, Maurice, liked to put the Cartoon Network on, and I would watch cartoons with him. They had two other bartenders, Heather and Niles, working there too. As I’ve said before, if you hire and retain good people, your bar is likely to be a success.

I became a member of the mug club, purchasing mug #52 and writing “Professor Paul” on the bottom with a green marker. (My friend Shane has mug #1). I met some of the other regulars and played a good bit of pool there. I started popping in the Tap Room most nights, including weekend nights. I met quite a few women there and took a few of them home.

You know, I feel bad about one thing though… there was this girl who worked at the Peabody Place Mall who I took home from the Tap Room one night. She really, really liked me and I knew it, but I just wanted to hook up with her. That wasn’t cool, looking back in retrospect. I hurt her and I feel bad about that.

(On a side note: You know what I just realized? I don’t really go out with the goal to meet women the way I did in 2003-04. These days I just want to be among friends. I don’t hook up nearly as much as a result, but you know what I do have that I didn’t have 12-13 years ago? Many women who are my good friends and who have my back when I need it, who love me and would do anything for me. I would not trade them for all the hook-ups in the world.)

So, anyway, in 2004 I was hanging out at the Tap Room approximately as much as I hang out at, say, the Silly Goose in 2016. However, all good things must come to an end. By 2005, Darrell, Maurice, Heather and Niles had moved on to other jobs. 2005 was the year Beale Street started to get ghetto, and I started to feel unsafe being on the street after about 11 PM on weekend nights. Also, my comfort level at the Flying Saucer rose that year and I became an every-day regular there. Although the Tap Room hadn’t changed, I just didn’t have time for it anymore. I began scaling my visits back in 2005. When Max’s opened in 2007 and Bardog in 2008, I pretty much stopped going to the Tap Room altogether.

Yesterday I led off with my usual 2016 routine. I got to Bardog right at opening, meeting my “DAWG” John D to catch up on the Downtown news, then over to Blind Bear to see my favorite pair of librarian glasses and catch the end of the Tigers game on TV. I surfed Facebook post-game and noticed several of my friends, including Shane and Leigh, had checked in at the Tap Room. I thought, maybe I should go down there and check the place out. So I did.

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(Bright sunlight and a dark bar is not a combination the iPhone camera does well with. There probably are settings I could adjust on the phone to compensate, but I never bothered to learn to use them.)

It was like I had never left. Darrell was working next door at King’s Palace and went and found my mug, which I had not touched in 8 years. It still has “Professor Paul” and the number 52 on the bottom. My friend Gary challenged me to a game of pool, and although I have not played much in the past 12 months, it came back to me like riding a bicycle and I picked up the win. However, Shane prevailed in the game that followed. Later there was a rematch and although I ran the first five balls off the break, Shane made a comeback to beat me for the second time.

(On another side note, I wonder if anyone got a “Hey, just FYI, Paul just showed up” text from one of the people in these photos.)

I really enjoy that place and don’t intend to wait a matter of years before going back again. Perhaps it is time to expand my “Big Five” to the “Big Six” and make a place for the Tap Room. It would be nice to spend more time on Beale Street, and it has a different vibe than my other spots.

All right. Time to look at the stuff I threw into Evernote yesterday and see if I have enough material for a news post. If I do, I will be back shortly, if not, see ya tomorrow.