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Belly Up To...

Proud to be a ‘dive bar’


The sign above the red brick building features a shapely dame who is scantily clad, impossibly proportioned and wearing a sailor’s cap atop her flowing blonde locks. She’s rocking high heels, sporting short shorts with a blue kerchief tied around her neck. The animated image leans flirtatiously against a three-olive martini and smirks alluringly, beckoning outsiders in.

The Fremont’s bartender Dean Nowning says the establishment is friendly and unique.

The Fremont’s bartender Dean Nowning says the establishment is friendly and unique.

It’s 4:19 p.m. on a frigid Tuesday afternoon. There are five regulars bellied up to the bar, and when asked what makes The Fremont special, one of them, a woman, speaks up.

“It’s a pretty nice place,” she offers.

There are two stuffed deer hanging from the wall on the near end the bar; the far end has a framed National Rifle Association (NRA) certificate. The mural in back offers a nude image of Marilyn Monroe spread over red satin.

“Dive bar” can mean different things, according to bartender Dean Nowning. He explains that any locally owned neighborhood bar with regulars and easy pours meets his definition.

“(The Fremont) is a great dive bar; it’s a one-of-a-kind type of thing,” Nowning pauses and searches for precisely the right descriptor then adds one word: “Unique.”

So what do people need to know about The Fremont?

“I’d have to say the mix of people. Everyone’s laid back, and everyone gets along,” Nowning says. “I’ve been here for three years, and I’ve never once seen a fight. There’s a really good vibe here. All ages mix together, from 21 all the way up to 72.

The Fremont is tucked into an older east-side residential area, and it isn’t very big. The occupancy sign says 49, but attached to the north side of the building is an “events room” that nearly doubles the bar’s square footage.

The Fremont also features art exhibits, silent auctions and a goth-style “dark dance.”

“Every weekend there’s usually something (in there) and sometimes on week nights, too,” says Nowning. “There are all kinds of music: rap, metal, folk, Japanese, country music. We even had violins mixed with death metal.

“It’s all original music, here. No cover bands. And pretty much every event we’ve had is free.”

There isn’t a regular everyday menu at The Fremont, but there is a Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., with omelets covered in biscuits covered in gravy and a bloody Mary that’ll run you $6. On Thursday nights, there are 8-ounce cuts of top sirloin with sides and a drink for $9 that are served until they run out — usually around 8 p.m., Nowning says.

There’s free Wi-Fi at the bar, and don’t order a pitcher of beer — there aren’t any domestic beers on tap, only Guinness, Exile and Fat Tire. Of course, if you need to be PBR’d, they’ll get you a can asap. Pabst is one of their top sellers, and Hamm’s is also chilled and at the ready.

Then they also serve PB and J, but it’s not what you’re thinking.

“PBR and Jameson or Jack for $5,” Nowning says. “I can’t say if we invented it, but it’s here.”

The Fremont is cash only, according to the sign above the bar, and there aren’t any tabs allowed.

“But there’s an ATM,” Nowning points out.

The group of five regulars sitting at the bar has now grown to 10. As for the sign outside with the lady who’s not dressed for the weather? Well, she’s apparently doing her job. CV

The Fremont

1030 E. 9th St., 515-265-2080
Hours: 11 a.m. – 2 a.m., Monday – Sunday
Happy Hour: 4 – 8 p.m., Monday – Friday

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