It's "last call" at many a tavern these days. Dean Reynolds in Chicago takes us to a few holdouts:
Deep within the dark recesses of his favorite dive, you can find John Healy after work at his customary table around 7 o'clock.
In the morning!
He's a regular at Rossi's on State Street in Chicago ("Yeah, almost every day"), an establishment where patrons prefer to face the day with a shot and a beer more than a grande soy latte.
It is one of the few taverns in town that opens its doors for sunrise customers like lawyer John Luther.
"It's an old-time bar," Luther told Reynolds. "You know, it's a fabric of the neighborhood."
Rossi's is a classic neighborhood bar. With its heavy steel door and slit windows, it doesn't look all that inviting from the outside.
And that's fine with proprietor Dennis McCarthy.
Reynolds asked, "Would you call this a dive?"
"I would now, yes!" he laughed.
McCarthy has owned the joint for 25 years, but the bar has been here for decades more.
"I had a young kid, you know, he was about 25 years old in here one night. He's lookin' around and he goes, 'Gee, this is kind of a neat place. How did you think up the theme?' And I looked at him and I go, 'Think up a theme? How about 25 years of neglect?'"
There was a time when Chicago had about 10,000 taverns, seemingly one every block, and many open virtually round-the-clock. But their numbers are declining, here and elsewhere across the country. Over the past decade about one in six neighborhood bars has closed -- about 609 every month -- compared to 334 new bars opening.
"We're losing something for sure, and something that I think is important to preserve," said Sean Parnel, the author of "Historic Bars of Chicago" (Lake Claremont Press).
"A place like this could be gone tomorrow, whether it's bought out or the owner retires or passes. So I think bars are an important part of our culture."
Well, people don't drink as much as they did half a century ago. Modern politicians are not always friendly to neighborhood dives. Chains backed by corporations and festooned with fake authenticity are proliferating.
And with an eye on tax revenues, cities are encouraging more restaurant-bar combinations over old-time bars.
Bars like Simon's Tavern. Scott Martin has owned it since 1994, but Simon's has been here for 81 years.
"There are 60 foot of mahogany bar here, built in 1933," said Martin. "Same walk-in cooler downstairs, an 81-year old walk-in cooler."
"Sounds like there a lot of affection that goes with it, too," said Reynolds.
"Oh, I love this place."
Simon's Tavern is definitely a place where everyone knows your name, and more.
"I've seen people who have celebrated great things in life, love, friendships that have happened right here at the bar," said Martin. "Some people who've been down or unhappy. And you've been able to help pick people back up. So it's an important place, I think."
And at Simon's or Rossi's, you can have cocktails and conversation. But don't get carried away.
Reynolds asked, "So if I come in here and sit down and I say, 'May I see a menu please?'"
"You might get laughed at!" replied Dennis McCarthy. "You know, we'll give you a Slim Jim or something like that."
For more info:
- Rossi's, State Street, Chicago (Facebook)
- "Historic Bars of Chicago" by Sean Parnell (Lake Claremont Press)
- Simon's Tavern (Chicago Bar Project)