Monday, February 07, 2005

Ode to PJ's Blue Chipper

It’s a sad day. But also a good day. Yeah, figure that one out. But yesterday, I lost my bar. PJ’s Blue Chipper has been sold. No longer will I walk into there and be given that friendly greeting from Pete. No, instead some guy name Todd may be there. What kind of name is Todd?

I truly believe the following statement- Every man needs a bar they can call their own. It is an important part of their life.

I think most people don’t understand how a good bar functions and how it affects the life of those who go there. Pete did not just provide us a place to sit around, drink beer and watch sports. It was like a British pub. It was a community center where people could come and meet people from around the south side. It was a social place where outsiders could fit in and talk with anyone. It was that way because of Pete and Kim.

Yeah, just because the ownership changes doesn’t necessarily mean the bar changes.

But Pete, and his wife Kim, are special. They are good people. They are good friends.

The spirit of the bar will leave with them. That thing that makes it my bar may go with them. That is hard to take.

I remember the first couple times going in there. Before I was a regular. It started with my friend Nancy. She wanted me and another friend to play darts there. So we did. Thursday night. That was in the old bar. A relatively small place. The usual south side Milwaukee bar. It was what you would call cozy. It is also haunted, which is pretty cool. Now it is the party room (and of course, being the nice guy that I am, I always volunteer my time to help out whenever a bachelor party is going on by delivering singles and getting ice. I also give the bartender working the party a break so he can use the restrooms and stuff. Funny how it always happens when the stripper is there. Hey, I am a giver). A number of years back Pete had bought the next building over and converted into a much bigger bar.

I started heading out to PJ’s just before they opened the new bar. I was in the new place the first weekend it was open. And that is actually the reason I became a regular there. I remember heading out just because I didn’t want to stay at home. I walked in, took a stool at the bar and got a beer. Kim came over and sat down and we chatted. She knew me from darts. But that is where the true connection started. I felt welcome.

From then on, I noticed that there was something different about this bar. Pete and Kim would welcome everyone that came through that door. Whether they knew them or not (and Pete would always recognize someone that had been in his establishment before) anyone who came through the door was greeted warmly. When they left, the same thing happened. They would be thanked for coming. Yeah, it sounds so simple, but does that happen at your bar?

So on the weekends, I am going out to PJ’s when nothing else is going on. Beside Pete and Kim, I have met some really good people there as well. You could go up there and run into someone that you could talk to. You couldn’t help but make friends with the people in the bar. And I made friends. Made good friends. Some damn good friends. People I cherish. People I would do just about anything for. People I have shared some great times with. New Year’s Eve watching Ken propose to Janet. A Super Bowl party where Budweiser came in and gave everyone in the bar $315 dollars each. A Christmas in July party where I was crowned Bartender of the Year (which is still in effect). Daytona 500 parties. Numerous birthday parties. Packer Sundays.

Hell, Packer Sundays were an adventure all of their own! Watching E dump a full pint down Dave’s back to fill in his ass crack. E giving Randy the most super atomic wedgie that is ripped the waistband off of his drawers. Drunken singing. Dirty martinis. Watching the cheap people sneak in for free food and buy a single drink or drink water while they try to eat all the free food they could.

And of course this post would not be complete without mentioning the bartenders. Pete had a knack for hiring great bartenders. Ok, maybe they weren’t the best at pouring drinks, but they weren’t sore on the eyes either. I still don’t know how he did it but he always hired hot bartenders. Damn Pete let me know the secret!!! I don’t know how you did it, but bless your soul that you did. Nothing better than being seated in front of the ice during the summer when people are ordering the mixed drinks.

Oh wait, I just about forgot about the volleyball games. There is a volleyball court in the middle. Many a Sunday night and later Thursday nights were spent flopping around in the sand. Many of my teammates would agree, I made the best plays there. Well, maybe some of the most embarrassing plays, but they enjoyed it.

But now that may be gone. As I said, it is sad, but it is good. It means that Pete has gotten the price he wants. It means he can get a bigger and better place. I am happy for Pete and Kim. As much as it sucks that they won’t be serving us, it is good for them. And that is all that matters.

But they better inform Todd of my status. It should be written into the contract, that when necessary, I can go behind the bar and serve myself.

Pete, Kim, I thank you for providing us a special place to congregate, enjoy some drinks and have a good time. The good times that we had will never be forgotten. And we can only be happy that we were there to enjoy them.

I am proud to say that PJ’s was MY bar.

Pete’s basement


Anonymous said...

You said it all too well..


J. Gambino said...


Anonymous said...

LOL, Pete's was your bar! It was MY bar! I started going there in about '84 or '85 and I wasn't exactly legal when I started, either, but I "got served" and it was possibly because I was a semi-hot babe, or at least thought I was and acted like I was and I caught some bartender too busy to remember whether or not he had carded me and I began gathering info I would then use to get in there time and time again. Since I got known as a regular, I began to bring in my other underaged friends and we'd sit and behave and drink and act legal and it became "our bar" before we were even entitled to have a bar. Eventually Pete asked us to play on a traveling dart league and what were we going to say? Sorry, but we can't get into the other bars? We took the risk that if we came in as the dart team, we wouldn't get carded at the other bars, and we didn't. Now, although we could have probably gotten into those bars from then on, we didn't care to and we still preferred Pete's. We went there for a couple of years, actually, before one of us got 'busted' because one of her dad's friends said something stupid to Pete that gave away our secret. We, obviously had to stop going, and we missed it terribly, but when the last of us turned 21, we did rent a limo and, you know the first stop on our tour - YES, PETE'S! We apologized to him for having lied and put him at risk and he forgave us and welcomed us back any time. What a good guy! At this point, it has probably been a good 20 or more years since I was there. That seems incredible to even say, and I was thinking of one particular person I knew from that bar that I was wondering about, and nothing came up when I Googled him, so I Googled PJ's Blue Chipper instead and came up with this blog post, which is already many years old, but it's the first I've heard that Pete and his GIRLFRIEND Kim must have gotten married (or, he amazingly met and married a Kim after dating a Kim). And that they sold the bar. Well, good for them. I hope they're happy wherever they are.