Gettin’ Ripped at Rex Bar

There are five bars in the Fitger’s Brewery Complex. Sure, three of them are restaurants, but there’s still a drunken synergy going on that I appreciate. Yes, there are also a few retail shops and a hair salon, but a guy like me can always hope our sinking economy will put them all out of business and make room for more swill merchants. Already among the shops is one that sells wine and another that sells beer and beer-related accessories, so my dream is almost complete anyway.

Rex Bar, also known as “Rex Bar @ Fitger’s,” is Duluth’s newest drinking establishment. It’s located in the dungeon formerly known as the Tap Room. (There was also a brief and regrettable period when the place was called Lido, but we’re all trying to put that behind us.)

I’m immediately impressed by Rex for the simple reason that I can walk in through the northeast entrance. In the Tap Room days, some dickhead bouncer would always be seated there and instruct patrons to climb back up the stairs they just descended, walk down a long hall, go down another a set of stairs and enter through the other side, where there was another bouncer who apparently was the only one credentialed to check identification and let people in. Total bullshit.

I can tell right away, though, that obtaining my first drink at Rex will not be as easy as walking in. The bar is completely surrounded by thirsty people waving money, and the bar staff, probably comprised of rookies, is struggling to keep up. Since it’s illegal for me to serve myself, I have to jostle my way to an open spot at the bar and stand there like a geeky fourth-grade girl who’s just dying for the teacher to call on her.

Eventually, I get my chance and order a rum and Coke. The bartender repeats back to me “rum and Coke?” and I nod my approval. He then fills a glass with ice and returns to me. “Bacardi diet?” he asks. “No, rail rum and Coke,” I specify. “Rum diet?” he asks. “No, rum and Coke.”

When the proper drink is poured, I hold out $5 and he says, “five dollars,” and takes my money. This, of course, leads me to believe that the cost of my drink is $5, which would be outrageous. The bartender turns around and comes back to me, though, so I assume he’s going to correct the price he just quoted. Instead, he takes my drink and brings it with him to the register, as if he needs to scan it with a bar code wand or something. Eventually he manages to get the price of the drink on display, $3.25, and returns with my booze and change.

Since the weather is nice, I head to the new courtyard in the back, where I can sit and look at the lake while I wait for the action to start. It doesn’t take long before a group of college guys assembles next to me. They are quickly approached by an attractive young lady with a Barack Obama button on, carrying a clipboard. She asks if they’re registered to vote.

“Show me your tits, I’ll register,” someone mutters. The Obama Mama either doesn’t hear this or pretends not to. She remains focused on convincing drunken frat boys that they should help choose the leader of the free world.

When she leaves, a guy in a Foster’s Beer hat who goes by the nickname Ogre, begins philosophizing on politics. “I’m all about Democrats, but he’s black,” Ogre says, referring to Obama. “What if he makes it to the White House and gets all pissed off because there’s no Kool-Aid?”

His friends laugh nervously for a moment, then silence falls on the group. “It’s funny because it’s true,” Ogre insists.

One of the guys decides to change the subject and starts talking about the Olympics. I turns out that Ogre also has his opinion on the sport of track and field: “Those guys from Africa book it.”

It’s at this remark that I fantasize about throwing the guy over the courtyard rail to plunge to his death on the railroad tracks below. If his friends are dumbstruck and didn’t know how to react to that, I could always say, “It’s funny because he was an asshole.”

Slim Goodbuzz thinks his first night at Rex Bar was the beginning of a long and unhealthy relationship. E-mail him at hatemail @ slimgoodbuzz.com, and look for the next edition of “Gettin’ Ripped” in the October 22 issue of Transistor.