Owner offers his view behind the bar
By DAN SPRINGER / La Crosse Tribune
His tavern is less than a mile from La Crosse’s downtown bar district, but for Bruce Simones, it might as well be a world away.
Simones, who has run The Recovery Room at Seventh and Mississippi streets for a quarter-century, said his neighborhood bar has escaped the fights, police activity and unruly patrons seen downtown.
Speaking at a noon Brown Bag lecture Tuesday at Viterbo University, Simones said he never set out to run a hot nightspot. He instead wanted a place where people could discuss issues or news of the day over a couple of drinks, he said.
That business philosophy has paid off with a faithful group of customers made up of Viterbo students and faculty, employees from the city’s two hospitals and others in the community.
Even removed from the downtown, Simones said he can attest to an increasing alcohol problem, particularly with the city’s young people.
College students today drink more than those that came before them, he said, even though the drinking age has gone up twice since 1982.
Unlike previous generation, college students today have more money to spend, from higher-paying part-time jobs and through the use of credit cards, Simones said.
The most significant change, he said, is liquor has become the drink of choice for many college students today, even though beer still outsells it by a wide margin.
Simones claims liquor companies have targeted college students with different flavors that masks the alcohol taste — and content — in the drink.
“In our day, we would show we were men by taking a shot of Jim Beam or tequila. That would burn all the way down to your belly button and make you say, ‘I don’t want to try that again,’” Simones said. “Now there are shots that taste like milk shakes.”
Simones stressed it is up to the bar owner and employees to make sure underage or overly intoxicated people aren’t being served.
To do this, he said, the bar owner must hire the right staff and properly train employees to card customers and to know when someone has had enough.
While he credits police for doing a good job of dealing with alcohol violations, Simones said he did not agree with the public intoxication ordinance that went into effect earlier this year.
He did acknowledge the city needs to change its drinking culture for the situation to improve.
Yet throughout his presentation, he praised the relationship his bar has with Viterbo and its students, who he called responsible and respectful.
Viterbo students have stepped in several times when a bar patron became unruly or other problems arose, Simones said.
Dan Springer can be reached at email@example.com or (608) 791-8269.
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