Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Closing Time

 In the 70s, 80s, and 90s, Scrooges in Jackson was as close to Cheers as you'll find.  They even had a plaque from the guy who owned the real Cheers in Boston saying so.  It was official.

Today we buried a regular soldier from that campaign.  In among the high school friends, church friends, and family were Norm and Cliff and me.  In the hip-hop culture, there's a tradition of pouring out a beer for a friend who died too young.  We all die too young.  Some of us have had more beers than others, poured out or not.

Scrooges began when Billy Neville wanted to move his clothing business.  It wasn't a square lot, so they designed a structure with two large retail spaces but ended up with sort of an odd-shaped leftover space in the corner.  Since he was making his business an old English haberdashery, he had the idea of using this odd-shaped corner as an old English pub.  While the building was going up, he traveled to England and bought furniture for both his shop and this idea he had for a pub, including authentic English pub booths.  He soon found out that American asses must be deeper than English asses, so he had them modified to be about six inches deeper.  

Mississippi had been "wet" for a few years, and there were bars in Jackson, Cherokee being one, but there weren't any of what Neville considered "nice" bars.  Scrooges was the first.  He thought running a bar would be easy; everybody does.  It's not.  Pretty soon, he sold the bar to an ambitious young restaurant manager named Bill Latham.  

Bill owned Scrooges through its golden years, parlaying that success into a venture called "Amerigos" and another one called "Char," but also the ill-fated Wild Bills Caddilac Grill.  The bar changed hands several times after Bill, but it never regained the status it once had.

There's something to be said for sitting next to a guy for twenty years.  Some people at bars are really good at socializing.  Some of us prefer to sit in the corner; the great thing about a place like Scrooges (or cheers) is there's room for everybody.

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