Posted On: 05/01/2000
The Melrose is a calm neighborhood bar at the intersection of Macklind and Southwest. The tavern is across the corner from Hanneke's, the neighborhood hardware store, and down the street from the famous restaurant Cunetto's. The State Mental Hospital dome can be seen glowing ominously in the distance from the pub's front door.
Melrose has a stepped entrance, which lets out directly on the corner. The interior has a kind of art deco feel, with blue neon lights on the overhead fans. The lights give a very cool blue hue to the room. The establishment's most striking features are the two large metal statues which match the neighborhood-- it is common to see faux sculpted statues adorning the close cropped grass lawns of The Hill. The statues, of course, are decorated seasonally. There are wall length windows in the front of the bar, that allows quite a bit of light and a great view of the busy intersection. The back of the bar uses glass bricks for the shelving the liquors. If you're in the mood to be entertained, Melrose offers its patrons old school sci-fi pinball, Golden Tee, and an automated dart game.
The space has been a bar for only six years, with the current owner, Stanley, converting the place from an Italian restaurant to a clean and neatly decorated tavern. The bar draws almost exclusively from the neighborhood with nearly all of it Sicilian and Italian. There are some older German and Irish types that sneak in. The age ranges from late thirties to sixties.
Stanley is quietly quirky and his small collections off odd things decorate the bar-- a few rows of shot glasses, little toy super heroes hanging from the light fixtures and crawling around the back bar. It looked as someone's kid had decided to help decorate the bar. In conversation, the owner eagerly spoke about how the aldermen don't know that they are killing off neighborhoods by restricting liquor licenses and how these licenses are "fragile" commodities now. The neighborhood tavern is going to become "extinct and exist only in strip malls with parking lots" if these restrictions continue. The owner didn't exactly have a magnetic personality, but was a more of a matter of fact kind of guy. He wanted to attract business, but really didn't take the initiative to take the extra step to make sure that your drinking experience was enjoyable.
There was a tipsy middle aged woman sitting next to me who went on and on about "The Sicilians". She was a talkative woman of Irish descent who married into a Sicilian family on the Hill. The woman spoke of how the Hill is nearly exclusively Sicilian, not Italian. Luigi's barbershop around the corner was where she would send her Sicilian husband to get a shave during special occasions. Luigi sings to his patrons while he gives them a shave using a traditional straight razor. She was very open about the neighborhood. Every time she would say the word "Mafia" she would look around and lower her voice to a whisper, even thought there was only one other patron in the bar who was over playing Golden Tee with the bartender. She then went into detail about the workings of the Mob and high rollers in Saint Louis, even though she kept confusing the Lebanese Mob and the Sicilian Mob, both of which do not exist in Saint Louis, at least as the classic form that we think of the "Mafia". For the most part, these traditional Saint Louis criminal organizations went legit, into politics, or just died out.
The bar is not a bad place to stop; it has a nice decor and convenient location. It does lack the more important traits: those intangible qualities that bring you back to a bar. Atmosphere. Character. The place is nice, but it is just that. I have high expectations of a bar that decorates with art deco statues. It's worth a visit to poke your head in Melrose Club to check out the interoir.
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