The Empty Bottle (Chicago)

Danny’s is a totally kick-ass establishment and Mr. Sowley is a bad-ass. Respect your local bars and the staff who work hard for your enjoyment.


I’ve worked door on Saturdays at Danny’s for over six years now. Danny’s is a small bar on a residential block in the bucktown neighborhood of Chicago. When I say “small,” I mean a capacity of 84. It’s a dark, small bar with a small dance floor. It has dark nooks and crannies. The tables and chairs are low. the couches are circular. The bathrooms are cramped. There are no tv’s, there’s no food, and the DJ’s bring vinyl. When I say “small” I mean, it’s also a popular bar. When DJ Shadow was important, he upped it Rolling Stone (this was way past the time they were important, mind you.) The Sheer Magic soul party is stuff of legend; Derrick Carter is known to either come in and hang out or maybe do a set on Sunday to like…5 people. The Disco Unusal Social Club was huge until the DJ made a complete embarrassment out of himself. The Smiths /Off Chances nights are big with the queers and then there are the weekends. That’s what we’re here for.

When I say “small” I mean people come here—nice people—they are exceptionally polite, they tip well, they dance, they smile, they have a wonderful time, and then tell five friends about it. Then they tell five friends about it. Somewhere in there, is an asshole. That asshole has ten asshole friends. This is nothing new… it happened at Kuma’s, it happened at the Whistler, it immediately happened at Big Star, and it’s been happening at Dannys forever now.

I’m forever amazed at the behavior of certain people on a Saturday night. Mind you, this isn’t everyone, it’s just a certain group of people has been growing in numbers over these six years. They are the “money talks” people… they seemingly have never heard the word “no” in their life…they are “going to tell you how it goes”… that’s right, they are the asshole with ten asshole friends. They’ve never worked in service, they are completely entitled, completely privileged, (I was trying to avoid both those terms but they’re the biggest fucking elephants in the room) and they’re going to try to act bigger than you.

“You should just quit.” I can’t quit… I need the money, and I’m really really good at what I do.

“This is some sort of power-trip for you.” Hardly. I’m working… if I don’t work, I don’t eat. If you’re cool and patient this gets easier. If you’re a jerk don’t open your fucking eyes to whats going on around you, then we have a problem, and it makes the night harder.

A good night involves me waking up the next morning, having a cup of coffee and going forth with my day. A bad night involves me waking up the next morning, having a cup of coffee and realizing a very very tiny part of my soul has died.

For the past two years now, I’ve considered how I should address what follows. I’ve considered a sandwich board with the simple facts and just placing it in the line for everyone to see. I’ve considered a simple flyer with the same writing and pass it around while people wait. I’ve also considered draping a uncocked double barrel shotgun over my left arm like I’m out fox-hunting or some shit.

Welcome to Danny’s, here’s how this works:

Cash Only: yes, the bar is cash only and no we do not have an ATM. Let’s get the easy one out of the way. Look around you… where would we put a stupid ATM machine? Yeah exactly. Half a block south of here, that’s where our ATM machine is. The walk will do you good. Onto cash, we’re cash only for several reasons. The first is the most obvious, it keeps our drink prices down. No credit card fees, equals cheaper spending costs, equals cheaper drinks for you. The second is it eats up less time. When you got a full bar of people demanding drinks, bartenders lose time getting a persons name on the tab (“what? I’m sorry it’s really loud in here. What’s the name? Once more? One more time please, I’m sorry.”) and they lose more time tallying up the tab, running the credit card machine, etc. With cash, you pay for your drinks, get your change, and move on. Real simple, real fast. The third is, it’s somewhat of a filter… like rain, it keeps certain people away. By that I mean assholes that can let their alcoholism help sink the national economic system.

ID: The amount of shit I get for this truly astounding. If you’re going out you should have ID. I don’t care how weathered, grizzled, old, and wrecked you look, I need ID. You know why I need ID? Because it’s the law, and at any given time a cop can come in and be a cop. He can dick out if he wants and if he finds out that someone in there doesn’t have ID, we either get shut down or go to jail. Also, your little asides, and passive aggressive remarks? (“How old do you think I am?” “Thank god I just turned 21” “Really? Look at my grey hair. I could be your dad.”) Fuck you. This is something that takes 30 seconds at most, and now you’ve taken up two minutes of my time. You didn’t get your way, and now I want to set you on fire. Also TAKE YOUR ID OUT OF YOUR WALLET. Don’t just flash it to me like you’re Alonzo Mosley or some shit.

Capacity, “The Line,” and you: When we reach capacity, we have to start a line. I take no joy in it; a couple years ago, we arbitrarily made up the line based on how packed the room was. Well, the fire department busted us and shut us down for three days. Since then we’ve played ball. I really want everyone to get in and have a good time, but I refuse to do that at the expense of the fire department shutting us down.

So now we have a line. It’s an egalitarian system, and when one person leaves for the night, one can go in. If there’s 20 people in the line, that’s how long the wait is.

“It’s my birthday.” Happy birthday. There’s the line.

“I’m getting married, and it’s my bachelorette party.” All of that sound gross and sad. There’s the line.

“I’m going to spend a lot of money in here” Try operating above the level of “exchange” for once in your life. We’re not in the business of making money. We’re in the business of accountability and having a good time. There’s the line.

“We’re so cute, you’re going to let some cute girls wait in line.” You’re still a body, and that body takes up space, and the space is full by city standards. Do you do this everywhere? Is this your system of bartering? Do you get cheaper gas this way? There’s the line.

“All my friends are inside.”  Well, you should’ve shown up with them. You don’t get rewarded because you didn’t manage your time properly. There’s the line.

“How much can I pay you to skip the line?” First off, NO. Second of all, I have $220.00 in parking tickets, probably about $300 in dental bills coming my way, and a $1K credit card bill. You tell me how much you can pay to skip the line. Also, $20.00 for you and 8 of your GUY friends is clearly not enough. There’s the line.

Okay? Are we good? We all understand now? Great… hey, you—yeah rummy—DON’T PISS ON OUR NEIGHBORS BUILDING. They keep us open more than you do. If you need to piss, come see me. I’ll take your ID, you can walk in use the bathroom and come back out and wait in line.

[SIDENOTE: One night, about two years ago, some kid bolted out of the line and dipped down to our neighbors gang-way. He got back in line (I was by myself so I couldn’t bust him) with his friends.

“Hey did you just go piss in our neighbors gangway?”
“No way man. I didn’t do that.”
“Okay well, I don’t believe you, and you’re not getting in.”
“Dude, don’t be a dick, I didn’t do that.”

“I’m being a dick?”

Just then, about eight of our neighbors—tough looking latino dudes—come from across the street. “Hey man, you just pissed in our gangway.”

“Oh… yeah. Yeah I’m sorry man.” They told him he wasn’t getting in the bar and he and his friends bolted like their house was on fire.]

Now, for those of you who have already been inside, we have these cards. They’re playing cards. They’re weird playing cards that you can’t buy at like, 7-11 or something. They’re for you should you need to make a phone call, have a cigarette, need to get more cash, etc. That’s one card per person. You hold onto that card to get back in. If you lose it? Sorry, there’s the line.* No, that card doesn’t mean you can bring in your friend waiting in line. It also doesn’t mean you can go to another bar for an hour or so… the card has a time limit, and you should respect that.

Okay, so there we are. We should be good now. We all know how thi-Oh, great. There’s two of you waiting in line and you’re now at the front and your eight friends just showed up by cab and you’re going to try to push them in like its no big deal? No no no, a thousand times no. That’s extremely rude, and if you don’t recognize what that does to everyone else around you then you have your head waaaay up your ass. Ask everyone in line if you and eight of your friends can cut to the front. I’ve seen near fist fights break out due to this. So while you’re pouting about this, put the shoe on the other foot; think about how bummed you’d be if you saw that happen while you were waiting… tell me you’re okay with that.

Goodnight! Yes, we all had fun tonight, we drank, we danced and we learned a lot about each other. Now go home; when the lights come on, it’s time to leave. You know what leaving is? It’s taking a giant gulp of whatever drink you have, and stumbling out. It’s not the time to start arguing with the bartender about how “it’s not even 2am/3am/4am” (every bar has their clock set 15-20 minutes ahead so they can get people out at 2am/3am/4am because by law that’s when the door has to lock.) It’s not the time to make the last play on someone to get some ass. It’s time to finish your drink, get your coat and leave. You can do all of this on the corner. By the way, look around you… there’s houses everywhere. These people are sleeping… please please please, keep it quiet and go down the street. Mocking me in a whispered, exaggerated tone does not help anyone at all. Neither does getting louder… are you 12? Wait, I just spent hours explaining some of the most basic of social contracts to you…you’re probably 12… can I see your ID again please?

*(okay, I might bend on this one, just don’t be a dick about it.)

  1. infant-tyrone reblogged this from bronxcheer and added:
    As we approach New Year’s Eve, please read
  2. mactra reblogged this from bronxcheer and added:
    Great bar, Danny’s…
  3. caramichele reblogged this from cara-ann
  4. cara-ann reblogged this from staceyjoy
  5. staceyjoy reblogged this from tankboy
  6. tankboy reblogged this from bronxcheer
  7. kelllymac reblogged this from bronxcheer
  8. drugz reblogged this from bronxcheer and added:
    Be prepared for a can of e-whoop ass to be opened:
  9. pauljwiss reblogged this from bronxcheer and added:
    I don’t know what the video has to do with anything but if you go to bars you should know this.
  10. portraitoftheartistasayoungman reblogged this from bronxcheer and added:
    I’m pretty sure this guy has busted me and Ryne for pissing in the alley across the street from Danny’s a couple of...
  11. paperplant reblogged this from bronxcheer