Locust Tap — an old-school bar since 19336/29/2016
In 1937, two packs of cigarettes cost about a quarter, America was in the depths of a depression, and the prohibition banning alcohol had only recently ended in 1933. It was also a year a small East Village pub opened its doors to the public for the first time, and the Locust Street Tap was born.
“It’s an old-school bar,” said Jasmien Clouse, a bartender at one of Des Moines’ oldest bars.
It’s the bar’s “old-school,” ancient relics and foibles that charm bar patrons and dive-bar connoisseurs.
For instance, the Tap has “his” and “hers” restrooms,
one for the fellas and another for females only, and there’s only one sink for handwashing in the hallway between the two. You might also want to stay alert while in the commode since the locks don’t work on the Tap’s bathroom doors.
“You gotta hold on (to the doorknob),” Clouse instructed as she simultaneously mimed for customers her own personal technique of keeping the door shut while using the facilities.
A patron sitting at the bar said this adds a level of difficulty to an otherwise mundane chore, and added that the same goes for billiards. The Tap’s pool table surface leans like a putting green, careening one way, then another, and the angles depend on the day of the week, and which way the table’s been moved, and since when, and by how much.
The old school bar is also still utilizing something called a “dry cooler.” It’s similar to a walk-in cooler, except it isn’t cold. It’s where they stored beer in the “old days.”
Some updates have been done to the Tap; graffiti is plastered on all of the walls, and some of it goes all the way up to the ceiling. And a payphone was installed on the wall near the entrance, but there isn’t a dial tone any more.
Radiators are scattered throughout, signaling hot water and radiator-style heat, and the floor is still styled with old one inch squares while the ceiling has the tin-looking ceiling tiles.
So why is it that people come here?
“Strong, cheap drinks,” Clouse said. “It’s a small dive bar. It’s completely different than Court Avenue bars.”
She also said the Tap has a massive selection of drinks for people to choose from.
“People that come here want to come and chill and mingle and talk,” she said. “And tell me all their life problems.”
She adds that some of the bar’s regular customers have been coming in for 30 years or more, and that some sneak in for a cold one during working hours.
One patron pointed out that the bar still sells cigarettes, which according to this person, isn’t done by any other bar in the area.
Clouse said a pack of smokes costs $9 per pack, which is another change since 1937. CV
434 E. Locust St., Des Moines
Open 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Thursday; noon to 2 a.m. Friday through Sunday.
Happy hour specials run every day from 2-8 p.m. when domestic bottles are $3.