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Donna’s Lounge: Brick building with the Bitches

3/2/2016

Donna’s Lounge on Southeast 14th Street is full of Bitches. Now hear this out. Put your pen down, and hold off a second on your angry email to the editor. The group of ladies that assembles at Donna’s for a few suds and a little socializing call themselves Bitches.

Judy Lawless, (owner) Donna Keul and Jenny Eaton are friends and regulars at Donna’s Lounge.

Judy Lawless, (owner) Donna Keul and Jenny Eaton are friends and regulars at Donna’s Lounge.

“That’s (the name of) our group,” one of them explains.

Another expounds on the sophisticated criteria for entry: “You have to be a bitch.”

It turns out “bitches” is an acronym that stands for: “Being In Total Control of Herself.” There are eight members of the club, and three of them are sitting here.

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Donna Keul, the owner, counts herself as a member the group, and while she might be in “total control,” she comes off as the opposite of the acronym’s street meaning. She opened her lounge in 1982, and it will be her 35th anniversary in May. “No,” is all she says when asked if she ever imagined she’d still be sitting here 35 years later on that opening day.

“It’s been an easy bar to run,” she adds modestly.

Then she also offers that her husband’s name is Larry, and he helps, too.

“You gotta throw him in there,” says Bitches member No. 1.

“Or he’ll pout,” says Bitches member No. 2.

Another bartender named Billie Jo, who has worked at Donna’s for 19 years, drops by to offer her two cents.

“I love it here and wouldn’t want to go anywhere else. (These owners) are good to work for.”

Bitches member No. 1 turns and says, “She’s suckin’ up good.”

Another bartender named Theresa speaks up and says, “She has awesome bartenders!”

In 35 years, what’s the most fun you’ve had here?

“The most fun we’ve ever had here?” Donna repeats the question while thinking of the answer. “The first 10 years, we had bands and male strippers and belly dancers.”

Everyone agrees that was fun.

But Donna says they don’t do that anymore because they changed it into a pool bar now, and there is free pool every Friday and Saturday night from 6 p.m. to close. Instead of live bands, there is a “jumping jukebox,” and Donna sponsors 11 pool teams.

There are poker tournaments, too. Every Tuesday and Thursday at 11 a.m., and every Saturday at 7 p.m., they host a $15 buy-in Texas Hold’em tournament.

Donna says she’s never participated herself, but she says it is a lot of fun for card sharks and minnows.

So what makes this place so special? After all, the place is dimly lit, it’s not very big, and the brick building barely has any windows. It’s the kind of place you’ve probably driven by a million times, yet it’s managed to make it 35 years.

“It’s like ‘Cheers,’ ” says Billie Jo. “Everyone knows your name. We try and make everyone feel welcome here.”

Like Cheers, all are welcome. Even Bitches. CV

Donna’s Lounge

4424 S.E. 14th St., 515-287-2119
Hours: 9 a.m. –  2 a.m. seven days a week
Happy Hour: 3-7 p.m., Monday  – Thursday $2 beers
Free pool Fridays and Saturdays, 6 p.m. to close

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