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Shoe Column: Bottoms Up

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By Tim “Shoe” Sullivan

Back in the day, nobody ever went thirsty in Stevens Point or Plover.

If you were of age, or sometimes even if you weren’t, it wasn’t very difficult to find a local watering hole. Our fine city had many places that served alcohol, and enjoying a brew or casual cocktail was frowned upon by nobody.

Stevens Point and the surrounding areas has bars, taverns, pubs, cocktail lounges, nightclubs, strip joints, and restaurants that served drinks up the gazoo. Point has always been a “town and gown” city that catered to the locals and college kids.

Some people would just slip into a bar for a casual drink or two. Others would go out to get sloshed, plastered, hammered, wasted, smashed, or leave half in the bag or three sheets to the wind. In several places, happy hours ruled.

Let’s face it. A lot of folks enjoyed taking a nip every now and then. The citizens of this area have always liked their booze.

Many of those places where a guy or gal could get a drink no longer exist. Hell, there used to be over 40 bars on the square. There even were softball “beer leagues”.

Let’s look back at many of those fine establishments that faded away as quickly as the Packers did after Aaron Rodgers went down. Do you remember the taverns and drinking establishments that were here one day and gone the next? Some lasted only a year or two. Others were in business for decades.

For instance, there was Archie’s Cocktail Lounge on the Southside. It was owned by Archie and Sue Hansen. They had great bands and mouth-watering beer battered chicken served in the red plastic baskets. Another option was the downtown American Legion with its famous fish fry and Foxhole Bar. Bill Clinton gave a speech over there.

Then you had the Athletic Bar which was just east of the Flame on Maria Drive. And we certainly don’t want to forget the Alibi, Anthony’s Supper Club with the huge steaks, and the Antler’s on Lake DuBay.

The BackStreet Pub became Big Todd’s Rumble Inn. Before those two, it was the Maple Leaf. Maybe something else in between. There was Big Daddy’s which became Buffy’s Lampoon. The Cabin on the Square was once JL’s Pub after it was the Gym Mill. Before that, the same spot was Pete Marsh’s Big Moon Saloon. The Big Moon was known for its orange juice containers that had pitchers of beer at very low prices. Bob Walczak, a delightful guy who was known as “One Time”, often held court at “the Moon”. The Blue Top was where Rookie’s is, and the Brat Barn was a college bar across from the PourHaus. Bernie & Atz’s also served the “Blue Bullets”.

Cooper’s Corner was down there on the highway in Whiting, and Chuck’s Tap was on the Southside. Coaches which was run by Bob Raczek and Ronny Kurszewski was on the Northside, and Chong’s was tucked away in the corner of the square. The Dewey Bar by the railroad depot was the scene of the first fantasy football league in the ’70s, and the Dugout was out in Plover.

Ella’s was on Division next to Cooper Motors, and the Echo Inn was somewhere north of town I believe. E’s Inn had softball tournaments out by Custer.

Frank Jurgella’s Frank & Ernie’s was across from Kim’s Barrel Inn. Frank had the best fish fries in town. Craig Ludwig of the NHL’s Dallas Stars once left F&E’s at midnight to play a game of wiffleball in front of KBI. The Friendly Bar on the square was the place I went to when the San Jose Sharks’ Joe Pavelski threw a party and signed autographs. I spent most of the night talking to Joe’s dad Mike about fishing (the next morning, Mike dropped off a big bag of panfish). The Friendly Bar used to be the Ritz Tavern which was packed on Sundays with everybody dancing to polkas. It’s now the Outfit. The Flame was a hot spot next to Romie’s Rendezvous which featured “Fitz” spinning tunes and “Oldie’s Night” on Thursdays.

Gary Nations had fine food and Geno’s KoKo Klub was in Plover. Gary’s Tap & Grill had nice softball teams. The original Graffiti’s (on the square) was where Tom Meyer’s Grin & Beer It was located next to Joe’s. GBI boasted Pete Moss who married a Minnesota Viking cheerleader. The “new” Graffiti’s is where Rudnick’s Grocery used to be. Sherman Rudnick worked at Rudnick’s. Sherman is one of the funniest guys around. He moved to Iowa but knows everything about Stevens Point from back in the day).

The Hotel Whiting used to feature a guy named Lynn who played the piano. He’d even take requests. The Hot Fish Shop was a Point staple, and the Green Bay Packers went there back in the ’50s. Great food.

And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the Harmony Bar.

No doubt about it. If you wanted to “whet your whistle”, Stevens Point was the place to be. Joe Mama’s was right across from Buffy’s. Jim & Judy’s was somewhere way out there, and Johnny & Elaine’s was one of the big bars in Plover. JL’s Pub had some great softball teams, and a few Pointer hockey players dropped by from time to time.

Little Joe’s in Park Ridge was the unofficial home of the Siasefi’s (along with Buffy’s and Archie’s), and Lucky’s on the square used to be the LongBranch. Little Brown Jug was next to the Elbow Room.

The Modernistic was to the south, Mickey’s and their great pizzas to the north, and the Mint Bar was located where Butter’s is now. The softball powerhouse Moore Barn in Buena Vista became Doug’s Sports Pub, and we don’t want to forget the Melody Bar.

Novak’s Bar turned into Partner’s Pub, and some Minnesota Vikings played foosball there once. The Jacksonville Jaguars frequented Nitty Gritty which became Guu’s. The Outer Limits had disco and the Office down from Top Hat served terrific charburgers.

Pete’s Silver Coach had the egg rolls and excellent food, and the Platwood had the strippers. Paul’s Bar became Mickey’s.

Man. Where the hell did everything go? River City Diner across from the Fox Theatre had bands and 50 bartenders and waitresses. Romie’s featured Roman Dragula, and the Red Lantern was by the college dorms. Rhody’s was on the Southside for many years, and so was Roy’s Bar. Royal Wood had 180 adult softball teams in Plover, and Rusin’s Tap usually had some good teams.

You couldn’t beat the Greeks at S&J’s Palace downtown, and Sadie & Jerry’s was a hot dining spot. Slo’s Place was pretty much for townies, as was Stash & Rosie’s and the Square Bar. Sandy’s Bar was very popular in Plover, and I watched Joe Namath and the Jets beat the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III while downing a sixer of Point Specials at a tiny bar called The Shack. The American Legion was next to the Shack. The Shack didn’t last very long. The Legion was here forever.

And it just went on and on. You could bend an elbow at Treasure Island or the Thunderbird in Plover. The Unique Bar downtown had its own softball cards and famous barbecues. Packer Hall of Famer Ray Nitschke wandered into the Unique one afternoon and was mobbed by a host of excited fans. Tons of folks got blitzed at Polish weddings at Skipp’s and Wildwood Gardens. You could also have a cool one at Wanta’s Bowl, Who Cares, and Willie’s.

Oh, and the Upper Wisconsin River Yacht Club had Ted Nugent as a patron and peanut shells on the floor. And there was Ziggy’s.

Now don’t get me wrong. There’s still plenty of places around if you want to catch a cold one. But it sure ain’t like it used to be. Here’s to ya, and give ‘er yazda!

Tim “Shoe” Sullivan can be reached at [email protected]

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