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Aug 22, 2014
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34 Club is a Professional Drinker's Bar
By Steven Fitzpatrick Smith
Posted On: 12/12/1999   

This is not your typical West End Bar. What immediately comes to mind when drinking in the West End is fancy martinis, imported beer, and expensive wine. The people tend to be beautiful and like to think of themselves as cosmopolitan and hip. "West Endie Trendies" is the title the owner of much missed Fortune Teller Bar on Cherokee used to refer to these folks.

But there are taverns in the West End that are really much more than that. While the high class joints rule the neighborhood, there is still a place where the beer is served in a can. The 34 Club has been the neighborhood bar "since 1941" as the painted sign says on the window. The bar appears to have changed very little in the nearly 60 years it has been in business.

The 34 Club on 34 North Euclid is a relatively simple yet anachronistic bar surrounded by eclectic shops and restaurants just south of West Pine across from an old hotel that used to be hip, then was owned by the Moonie cult and now this vacant hotel has just been acquired by one of the Universities. Inside, this dimly lit tavern has the typical shotgun formation with the mirror backed bar along the side with tables and the obligatory dartboard and jukebox.

The regulars come early in the day and tend to stay long. Just as many of the regulars enter in from the alley entrance as do from the front door, both of which are kept wide open in good weather. The folks are quirky. Women with hairstyles they have kept for forty years. Old men who clearly no longer work, but still wear a tie. Folks who come in the middle of the workday for a nip. The patrons' age is varied. The clientele is mostly white, but not exclusively, and appears to come from all levels of income. The regulars do not really come across as true high rollers. Any sign of money looks like it is for show, such as the man who sat next to me with a pinky ring. These folks are different. They don't care about how much money you make or who you know. The regular patrons do share a common bond and concern. They share the desire to drink regularly and often. This is more of a professional drinker's bar.

The bar has a relatively typical selection of booze with a few old school oddities such as sweet liqueurs. The walls are simple dark wood panels. There are no inflatable beer cans or race cars hanging from the ceiling. They don't need such absurd encouragement to sell beer. The selection is simple with few exceptions. The standard beers are canned and brewed on the south side.

If you are nice and acting like a regular (drinking) you might be able to charm the bartender to let you take a peek at the book. They might not claim to have it if they don't feel like showing it, but they have a book full of pictures of the place during its hey day. The bar was just across from a hip hotel and block away from the swankiest hotel in the Midwest, the Chase Park Plaza. Gaslight Square was just on the other side of the West End which was one of the liveliest entertainment districts in the nation at the time. All sorts of important folks have allegedly hung out at this bar during this time. In this book are old yellowed pictures of Frank Sinatra, Rat Packers and other famous-looking stars that look like they might be in 34 Club.

The regulars may give you are hard time if it is your first time, but the harmless old men tend to be friendlier if you are young and female. Especially if they have had a few. If you play yourself right and keep drinking you will fit right in. You might even find yourself turning into a professional regular.

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