Barrymore’s Bar in Lincoln, Nebraska is unique. It is located in the backstage area of what used to be the Stuart Theatre. You enter the bar through an alley. The bar entrance was the performer’s stage door when the theatre opened in 1929.
Barrymore’s was always dark and musky and smelling of sawdust and rope. The Stuart theatre is still a performance space with seats and a stage and on the other side of the fire curtain remains Barrymore’s — still backstage — and still thriving with life and ambition and still giving off a strange ambience of being someplace you don’t belong but were always meant to be in the end.
Barrymore’s is where the radio people I used to work with would hang out before, during and after work because the station was on the eighth floor of the same building. If I joined them during the day I always had a pop while those around me would slowly make their way into the slosh. One day my friends and I were hanging out downtown after school and we decided to go into Barrymore’s.
Barrymore’s was an upper class bar. It wasn’t like the bar troughs clotted along downtown where University of Nebraska-Lincoln students would head for the cheapest buzz they could find. The five of us sat down together at a tiny round table. The waitress came over and smiled and asked what we were drinking as she placed a cocktail napkin before each of us. She said drinking in such a way we knew she mean alcohol and not pop or water.