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Belly Up To...

Not part of the plan




Jim Besler didn’t plan on owning The Thirsty Sportsman — in fact, he never planned on owning any bar.

“I thought I was going to go to work in an office every day,” he said.


Jim Besler, owner of The Thirsty Sportsman, went to college to be an accountant.

Prep Iowa

But that’s not how it worked out. Instead, Besler, who studied accounting in college, started up his southside bar, which sits between the Wash-N-Dry laundromat and Ming Dynasty Buffet in a shopping center on Southwest Ninth Street.

After finishing school, Besler took his time looking for the right opportunity, and when he saw it, he took advantage. His mom and step-dad owned the building the bar now sits in, and they needed a new tenant to fill the large space. Despite having little experience in bar management, Besler decided to give it a go.

“There was a bar here before,” he said. “I figured if they could do it, I could do it.”

But he wanted his bar to be different, so he went to work creating a place he’d like to visit himself.

“I put all the stuff I’d want in a bar,” he said.

The Sportsman has six pool tables, with free pool on Sundays, bags for bag-toss, darts, skeeball, Foosball, a shuffleboard table and even several leather couches to go along with the standard bar seating, tables, chairs and booths. It also hosts live bands most Saturday nights, Karaoke every Wednesday from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. and DJs on Friday nights.

“It’s for everybody,” Besler said of his bar, listing I.T. professionals, roofers, Rand Paul supporters, policemen and attorneys as frequent customers.

Besler said his bar caters to people who are thirsty — thus the name — but don’t come hungry because there isn’t a kitchen.

“Our culinary team is Frito and Lay,” he said.

Besler said he’s been fortunate to have found good workers to help his bar earn high praise. He employs two regular bartenders. CV 7-7 BELLY PHOTO THIRSTY EXTERIOROne of them, Brandy, has been with him since nearly the beginning.

“I’m a lifer,” she chirped happily.

He said the other bartender, Brian, has worked at the bar for three or four years.

Besler also notes that he’s needed to learn how to navigate city and state licensing laws, including how to get a liquor license, and despite his menu consisting of Fritos and Lays, he said he even needs a food license in order to serve ice.

Besler said he’s learned a lot that wasn’t taught in his accounting classes in college during his years as a bar owner.  He’s had a lot to learn about how to be a bartender, which includes not only mixing drinks, but also improving people skills.

“Sometimes, I find I know people by what they drink instead of their name,” he laughed.

The bar was recently tabbed as runner up in Cityview’s Best of 2016 in the best southside bar category, but at least one regular patron who has lived on the southside for 25 years thinks differently.

“This is the best bar on the south side,” the longtime patron volunteered. “It’s the cleanest bar on the south side; it’s put together the best, and it’s well run.” CV

The Thirsty Sportsman

4808 S.W. Ninth St., Des Moines, 515-953-0377

Hours: 3 p.m. to 2 a.m., seven days per week

Happy Hour is from 3-7 p.m. Specials include $2.50 well drinks and all beer is discounted.



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