Where Everyone Knows Your Name

I live near Bar Vertigo and go there frequently. When I’m there, I’m there to have a drink, not for the music. Don’t get me wrong, Vertigo often has good and entertaining artists, but let’s face it – if I’m going to go somewhere near me for music, it’s going to be at a place like the Empty Bottle or Subterranean. That said, those places can get away with what I’m about to rant on.

I meandered into Vertigo Tuesday night hoping to have a Guinness and check out what’s going on. The doorman (whom I know pretty well) apologetically informed me I’d have to pay three dollars to get in. No sooner could he get his words out, three other regulars at the bar, already looking upset, got up, threw their arms around me, and dragged me out the door, emphatically saying “Hey, Tom! Great to see ya! Let’s go to Stella’s!” Five minutes later, we were all a block away at Stella’s, enjoying our beers.

Now, Vertigo has always had a “suggested donation” at the door during shows or whatnot. It’s also always been understood that this doesn’t apply to the regulars. Never has this become a mandatory cover, especially for regulars. They do this, I assume, because the owner realizes there are several other places nearby where one can get a beer.

What kills me is that I paid a very large sum over the summer to have a high-profile band play there. The owner even told me he made good revenue that night. In return, I received a meager amount of “suggested donations” which did not come near to making up my expenses. I never have and am not now complaining about that; I consider the very personal performance from my favorite band and the generous amounts of free alcohol that night my compensation. I knew it was going to be a very expensive birthday.

I guess what I’m ranting about is that Bar Vertigo is chopping its right arm off by doing this. There were at most five other people there Tuesday night, and most of them were the performers. The regulars are its bread and butter, and based on the conversation we had that night at Stella’s, they’re pissed. And I mean pissed off, not pissed drunk. Stella’s may get tons more business from now on. The jukebox there may not be as good as the one at Vertigo, but again: I’m just there for the beer.

Next thing you know, they’ll have the little velvet ropes and a guest list on a clipboard.

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