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Belly Up

July 12, 2012
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Trust your money to Chop’s Old Bank

CNick Schillinger refused to do a “dong bong” (as most men don’t feel comfortable with the joke), but he’s all about beer-bonging a small pitcher from the skull. They’re bad-asses with good attitudes at Chop’s Old Bank in Waukee.

By Amber Williams

Most people go to the bank to cash their checks, but a few alcoholics I know in Waukee cash their hard-earned money at “the old bank.” Chop’s Old Bank. Some even spend their entire week’s pay bellied-up to the old bar, but to each his own. One bank can be as good as another, and technically, Chop’s Old Bank is a bank — at least, it was 100 years ago. Now it’s a quaint, brick structure on one of the Waukee Triangle’s three points. These days, it’s a place where the outlaws go to drink their money rather than steal it.

“You can still see where the vault used to be in the brick work,” the owner, Chop, said while pointing to a section of the brick where it was discolored from what used to be an 8-inch thick vault wall. “It took three weeks to remove it. We had to take it out by hand, piece by piece. And, the big vault in the basement is still there.”

When Gary “Chop” Sayre bought the bar six years ago, it was burnt to a crisp from a fire that had rendered “The Bank” a nonfunctioning eyesore. But after a lot of work, including new electrical wiring, plumbing, woodwork and a new bar, Chop was ready for a re-opening. The former owner of the Booneville Bar (now called the Waveland in Booneville) said keeping the original name on the 103-year-old building was good luck. And so far, so good.

“Before it was a bar it was a dance studio, or so I’m told, but I don’t know what it was before that,” Chop said. “Everything I know about the history of this place, I’ve learned from people coming in here and telling me.”

By day, Chop and his bar staff hear stories about the history of the site from the Waukee old timers who take up a card table by the door. But, by the time happy hour rolls around, Chop’s own local following fills the room, slipping dollars into the juke box and pool table. And they mingle on the back patio that feels more like you’re friend’s backyard, surrounded by a privacy fence. The patio more than doubles the bar’s capacity, so even on the hottest and coldest of days, people spread out in back smoking, drinking and throwing a sometimes dangerous game of horseshoes.

You never really know what to expect at Chop’s. The atmosphere changes according to who’s hanging out, and the time of day doesn’t matter as much at Chop’s as it does in other bars. The Old Bank calls to bikers and bankers, volleyball teams and poker players; it hosts bike nights, karaoke and live music. And a full menu is often served from Mama Chops Triangle Café across the street, where Sayer’s wife and daughter make comfort food from “Mama Chop’s own recipes.” CV



400 Sixth St., Waukee

(515) 987-3000

Hours: 11 a.m.-2 a.m., Mon.-Sun.

Happy Hour: Mon.-Fri., 4-7 p.m.

Entertainment: Karaoke Thur. and Sat., 9 p.m.-1 a.m.

Capacity: 70 (150 including the patio)

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