Friday, November 28, 2014


Belly Up

14th Street Tap, a legacy evolved

1/1/2014

Bartender Desiree Johnson mixes up a vodka and Shogun, the 14th Street Tap’s go-to energy drink.

Bartender Desiree Johnson mixes up a vodka and Shogun, the 14th Street Tap’s go-to energy drink.

At 14th Street Tap, there’s no shortage of people to talk to who know everything there is to know about the place. The bartenders are long-timers, and the patrons — many of whom are hanging out on their night off — are “lifers.”

“Like they’re in prison,” laughed a former employee who just so happened to be on the other line talking to her daughter who sat at the bar. The bartender on shift last Monday night, Desiree Johnson, was well informed enough about the old haunt, having worked there for more than two years. But where she was uncertain on a thing or two, her co-worker bellied up on the other side could chime in, along with her mom on the phone.

“It’s a lot different than in the old days,” said Traci Olson, former employee over the phone. “It was a dark, smoky bar with no windows — just booze. Now it seems almost like a sports bar.”

She’s right, especially in that it’s “almost” like a sports bar. In fact, while most metro bars come with a theme or gimmick, 14th Street Tap doesn’t seem to know what it is. Loads of sports collectibles decorate the walls, and the current game, match or meet is available on one of the big screen TVs, but that is all joined also by the Harley paraphernalia and other biker-bar cues. But who says a bar’s identity has to be so precisely defined? The 14th Street Tap is what its patrons need it to be: a cozy space for bikers, ballers, pool or dart leaguers, drinkers, juke-box players and Grand View University students with nicknames like Iron Fist (for the love of God, don’t ask) all harmoniously co-existing for a drink and/or a meal on any given day or night of the week. And they do. And they have for decades.

DM Art Center

“This place used to be Beeg’s Lounge,” said a salt-n-pepper patron who dodged the camera at every angle and wouldn’t be caught dead with his mug or his name in any damn newspaper ever. But he knew everything about his favorite bar — all the way back to the early ’80s when it was owned by an Urbandale fire fighter who everyone loved named Mike Mercurio.

“I was the first person Mike hired,” Olson said. “When Mike Mercurio owned the bar, he had customers from the day he opened who became regulars until the end. He was a very good person and good with people. He knew how to treat customers.”

Now Mercurio watches his legacy evolve from a framed black-and-white smile near the back door. They may not make ’em like Mike anymore, but you know you’ve found a good bar when the employees are bellied up on their day off and neighboring bar owners stop in for a beer and bite despite the competition.

“Well, he had free drink tickets!” offered Lynda Stone about her husband Gary, owners of the Highland Park Country Club bar up the street. That’s OK, Lynda. We’ll never tell… Oops. CV

14th Street Tap
3814 E. 14th St.
266-3446
HOURS: Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-2 a.m.; Sat. 10 a.m.-2 a.m.; Sun. 11 a.m.-2 a.m.
HAPPY HOUR: Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-7 p.m., 9 p.m.-2 a.m.; Sat. and Sun. all day
KITCHEN: Sun.-Thurs. open-12 a.m.; Fri.-Sat. open-1 a.m.
ENTERTAINMENT: Karaoke on Thurs., Sun. and every other Sat.

Iowa Wild