Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Last Chance, a popular three-shift bar and weekend bro-fest

A fellow word-maker for the sake of a newspaper with me at the papah has consistently defended the right of downtown bars to maintain 4 a.m. liquor licenses. His argument for them is simple: Peoria is, and always has been a three-shift town.

And while there 

Update from I forgot when

Yeah, this place has been getting worse by the week. During the winter months, the smoking patio is fucking ridiculous. I've joked that when you're out there for any significant amount of time, it's like getting hickory smoked. Just cut off some arm meat, put it on a bun and call it "pulled person." 

Thursday through Saturday is especially ridiculous. The bar is packed with loud mouthed 21-year-olds who seem like they're getting drunk for the first time. 

And the music, dear God, the music. It's fucking horrible and good luck trying to do anything about it after 11, it's next to impossible. It's only going to get worse this summer. 

Update also from I forgot when

These improvements have come at a price however. The changes to the Chance have brought in a different crowd. I'm starting to see a lot less regulars and a lot more new faces. Sometimes change is a good thing and sometimes it's not. To be clear, I'm not hating on the people that have recently discovered the Chance, the majority of them seem really nice. But we all know how the loud voices/actions of a minority can taint a whole group of people. 

Another problem with the recent renovations regards the pool tables. The Chance has always been, primarily, a billiards bar and now a wrench has been thrown into that system. The dart board has been moved to a place where, if more than two people are playing, it makes it very difficult to play pool on either of the pool tables. I'm not bothered that I can't play as much pool as before (I'm sure there are many who are) my concern is, believe it or not, safety.

It's only a matter of time before some drunken asshole gets in a fight with another drunken asshole over the pool table/dart board. Unfortunately, this is a case where owner of the Chance is trying to squeeze every possible dollar he can out of the joint. I know, it's his bar and it's his prerogative but this is part of the reason why he's losing so many loyal customers.

Another reason, is the fact that several of the regulars' favorite bartenders have been replaced with younger, cuter, and less experienced girls. I'm sure they're real nice but it's a lot like your team trading away your favorite player for someone who has promise but just isn't quite as good.

Times change and people have to adapt, it just sucks to see place you love go to shit, which, unfortunately is what's happening to the Last Chance. I'll still be there several nights a week, just not for as long as before.

I guess we could always stage a mutiny and get some of our favorite bartenders back. You know, like in episode one from the sixth season of Cheers? What's that? You're not familiar with that episode? Well here, let me refresh your memory, (if you're impatient, skip to the 3:15 mark).

Original Review

The Last Chance Bar and Grill is located at 2713 W. Second St. in north Peoria. If that address sounds confusing it's because it is. The Last Chance can be found north of the Super Wal Mart on Allen Rd. This bar is the last chance to get something to drink if your destination is either Dunlap or Princeville. I don't know why it took me so long to write a review for this place (procrastination) but most of my friends and I go there a few times a week.

The Chance is a family owned bar and on a given night, is usually filled with the same group of regulars. The Chance has two pool tables and a dart board. Over the bar, there are three nice TVs. Beers are cheap, I always get a pitcher of Bud Light ($5) and Jameson ($4). There are nightly specials for drinks and daily specials for food but they change every week so you'll just have to take my word for it. During the day, the Chance is more restaurant than bar as they have an extensive breakfast and lunch menu. The hours for food are listed below. Butch's pizzas are always available, Sunday nights are free chili dogs and Monday nights are free tacos.

Every week the Last Chance holds a drawing. Ask the bartender to sign up and she'll give you a notebook to put your name in (no pseudonyms if you want to get paid). Once you're in, you're in every week. The drawing is held from 7-8 on Wednesday night and costs nothing to enter. The prize starts at $25 and moves up by $25 increments for every week without a winner. And if you win a decent amount of money (over $100), you are expected to buy the house a round, which, at the Last Chance is pretty cheap.

Saturday nights are always packed and sometimes it takes a while to get your drink, unless you're regular. Basically, the reason I like this place so much (besides the fact that I know a lot of regulars) is that you can have it your way (fuck you Burger King!). If you're in the mood to just sit at the bar and go numb, you can do that. If you're looking for some casual conversation, you can have that too. In short, there aren't a lot of abrasive personalities that hang out at the Last Chance. It's just a regular bar filled with regular folks. That may sound boring but, I think sometimes we all need a good shot of normalcy. I know I do.

Update II - Yah, this place has been getting douchier by the week. During the winter months, the smoking patio is fucking ridiculous. I joked that when you're out there for any significant amount of time, it's like getting hickory smoked. Just cut of some arm meat, put it on a bun and call it "pulled person." Thursdays through Saturdays are especially ridiculous with the bar packed to capacity with loud mouthed 21 year olds who seem like they're getting drunk for the first time. And the music, dear God, the music. It's fucking horrible and good luck trying to do anything about it after 11, it's next to impossible. It's only going to get worse this summer. Good luck barflies of Peoria!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Jimmy Earp's Hideaway

Jimmy Earp's is located at 1507 S. Laramie St. in South Peoria. It sits just a few blocks south of the Iron Rooster and a few blocks east of Jan's Tap, a nice little trifecta of neighborhood taverns. I'm not sure if this neighborhood has a name but it is frequently referred to in the bar paper as Limestone Township. I guess this is for a reason because the neighborhood in which these bars are located is bordered by Bellevue and South Peoria. Either way, it's a pretty rough neighborhood but definitely not the worst.

Long ago, in a galaxy far away (or right here in Peoria), when I was an amateur in the highly skilled game of bar frequenting, the Hideaway probably wouldn't have been my first (or second) choice. But one day, I just so happened to be in the neighborhood and decided to stop in. After a few drinks, some friends showed up and the regulars started pouring in. A short while later the band started setting up. Now, usually you wouldn't expect a neighborhood tavern to have a house band but the Hideaway does and they are lead by the owner Jimmy. I know everyone out there may not be as big a Kiss fan as I am but I think most will admit that some of there music is very likeable. Not to mention the fact that most cover bands don't play Kiss songs and if they do, it is almost guaranteed to be a cut-rate version of "Rock and Roll All Nite". Anyways, the rag tag group of musicians at Jimmy's that night started out their first of two sets with the Kiss classic "Strutter". I immediately fell in love with Jimmy's and can count this moment as the genesis of my love for dive bars.

That night was a few years ago but after going there this past weekend I can tell you not much has changed. The pool table still has some of the best shooters in town (male and female) and the shuffleboard table still sees a lot of action. By 8:00 the 5 poker machines are spoken for and the jukebox is cranked up to 11. The beer is cheap, $2 a bottle and mixed drinks/shots are cheap too, probably because the bar isn't crowded with all those fancy "top shelf" vodkas, tequilas, and whiskys. If you want a shot, your choices in those three fields of study would be: Smirnoff, Jose, and Jack, not a problem for most.

If any of my readers (all three of you) are reading this post thinking, "what's so special about this place other than your nostalgia" I have something that might peak your interest in the Hideaway. Actually I have three things; the Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday night cash drawings. To put it simply: Entry Fee-none, Top Prize-$1200. I'll let that sink in for a minute.


Done? Okay. Now, if you're thinking that this is just a ploy to fill the bar on a Saturday night I can tell you you are wrong. The girl who won two weeks ago was present Saturday night. Well, she didn't actually win, but her name was called for the top prize, unfortunately she was not there. So, when the time came (9:00) to draw a name the bartender gave her the honor. The person whose name was called wasn't there so every hour for the rest of the night a name is drawn for a $600 prize. I wasn't signed up but I gave the bartender my name and you can bet your freezing cold ass I'll be there as often as I can, barring extreme physical injury, jail, death, or the off chance I check in to rehab (not likely). I think what's most commendable about the weekly drawings, is the fact that Jimmy's has been robbed twice in the last month. The second robbery being the worst as the crooks got away with almost $1500. Any bar owner who takes a hit like that and still tries to give away large sums of money every week is my kind of guy and possibly a socialist.

Jimmy Earp's is great neighborhood bar and if you're not from the neighborhood, it can be a great place to hide away (god I'm fucking clever). So, sign up for the drawing and maybe you'll win some cash. If you do win however, I would advise you to buy a round of drinks for everyone in the bar, or else you might not make it out of there alive. Cheers to the Hideaway.