May 26, 2015

Jim's: A longtime quiet South End corner bar has all the basics covered, along with gum and a squeak

Jim's Bar: None of that craft beer stuff
The hairy guy's report:

The promise of the neighborhood bar is that, as the old "Cheers" TV show theme says, it's "Where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came."   

Of course, any bar could fit that description. If you become one of the regulars, everyone will know your name, unless you just sit in a corner and never talk. And they'll always be glad you came, unless you get rowdy and never tip.

For instance, when the Bay City Times last year went looking for the best neighborhood bar around town, the finalists included the Stein Haus downtown -- a great bar, but not what we'd think of as a neighborhood joint.

Jim's Bar, deep in the South End, wasn't even on the list. It's our idea of a classic neighborhood bar. It sits on a residential corner. It's been around awhile. It's friendly and comfortable, but nothing fancy. You can imagine people walking there from home. lists synonyms for "neighborhood bar," including "pub" and "rathskeller." But it's a safe bet that nobody has ever called Jim's a pub or a rathskeller. It's a bar.

The Jim in Jim's Bar turns out to be Jim Premo, who bought the place in 1971 and
An old photo of Jim's, when it was Styn's ...
likes the South End because it's "not pretentious." Neither is he. Or his bar.

City directories show a bar has been at Cass at Jefferson since at least shortly after Prohibition ended. For decades it was Styn's (owner Verna Styn lived right next door) before it became Jim's. The building is the original structure, though a flagstone front added late in the Styn's days has obscured things. (A personal gripe here: Wouldn't all these old buildings in
... and an older photo, before a remodeling
town look better if someone hadn't tried to "modernize" them a generation ago?)

Premo talked wistfully of the old days in town.

"We had all kinds of industry in here," he said. Then the industry polluted the water, and the city tried to change into a tourist town. Now, he said, "There ain't no tourists and there ain't no jobs." Business, he said, is down "tremendously," though old customers "come back to reminisce."

Jessica the bartender, who truly didn't want her picture taken, said things get busier on weekends and after dinner. "It's more of a night bar," she said. Jim's is open noon to 2:30 a.m.
The bartender, as much as we could get of her
seven days a week.

The afternoon we walked in, the neighborhood was pretty much ignoring the place. A beer truck made a delivery, a lawn service cleaned up the lot outside, a Red Bull saleswoman walked in, Jessica's mother stopped by, and one regular customer (yes, Jessica knew his name) showed up and laughed at his own bar jokes.

There were a couple of distractions. First was an unpleasant smell, which the hairy guy didn't notice but his companions did. Jessica sprayed something that smelled worse but didn't last long. Meanwhile, Harry kept hearing a nasty squeal and figured it was his hearing aid. Turned out to be a creaky ceiling vent. That's the problem with getting old: Things start wearing out.
If it's not one thing, it's another -- your old ears or someone else's old machinery. 

Jim's has a dartboard, a pinball machine (Harry tried a game and hit almost 33 million points, which sounds like plenty but got him nothing), a pool table ($1 a game), a jukebox and a couple
The scene inside Jim's
of TVs. Signs include the usual assortment of beer signs and another, above an air conditioner, that says "Keep hands off."

On tap are Bud Light ($1.50 a shell, $4 for one of those mini pitchers, $7.50 for a large pitcher) and Killian's ($1.75, $4.75 and $9). Beyond that, cans of PBR, Stroh's, Busch and Busch Light are $1.50. Bottles of Bud, Bud Light, Michelob Light, Michelob Ultra and Miller are $2.25.

Looking for craft beers? You'll have to look elsewhere.

Some mixed drinks are available. In fact, a sign advertises a $3 gin-and-tonic special. But if you wanted a manhattan? "It wouldn't happen," said Jessica. She didn't know how to make one and it turned out there was no vermouth anyway. The Red Bull ($2.50) is about as exotic as it gets.

Food is limited to an array of bagged snacks, though a display case proudly offers well-illuminated gum of various kinds (35 cents) and Certs ($1.25), along with Jim's Bar T-shirts ($10). You're welcome to bring in food from elsewhere. (And Krzysiak's restaurant is just a block away.) "We don't care," said Jessica. "Just bring the bartender some."

See Doc’s report on Jim's Bar: The place to go after a thirsty ride on route 3

  The particulars:
  Jim's Bar
  1317 Cass

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