Oct 18 / jmusport

Guest Post: The 7 Greatest Short-Lived Bars of JMU

Pitz won last week’s prediction contest (with a perfect 37-0 prediction we might add) and earned the right to guest post. Here’s his look back on some bars of the ‘burg’s past.

#7. Caesar’s

Talk about a short-lived gem. If you didn’t frequent faux-fine dining happy hours in Harrisonburg from 2006-2008, you probably missed this flash in the pan. Located off Neff Avenue near present-day Jalisco’s, Caesar’s Italian Restaurant truly was a pioneer of questionable business plans. Fancy white tablecloths amidst happy hours that featured $4 pitchers and actual tables of free food.

Couple that with its vicinity to Highlawn (we’ll get to that soon, don’t you worry), and Caesar’s was Thursday’s perfect budget-conscious launching station on the Blackout Express.

#6. The Taratsa (a.k.a. Dave’s Rooftop)

Dave’s Taverna, a downtown mainstay from before the time of The State Normal and Industrial School for Women, flourished with the addition of The Taratsa, a massive rooftop area with tables and an open-air bar overlooking Court Square.  While it was always a center of gravity for the limited downtown scene, it ultimately struggled competitively against newcomers like Jack Brown’s, Billy Jack’s, and That Ethiopian Place—all of whom practiced radical business strategies such as treating your employees and customers well.

Toward the bitter end, The Taratsa was less a center of gravity than a black hole that left you feeling emptier than one of the many plastic pitchers of beer you could down in an evening. (But never more than two at a time, ugh.)

#5. JM’s Pub & Deli

Alright, you olds. This one’s for you. Long before Buffalo Wild Wings (and even longer before the current Brickhouse Tavern), that unseemly-but-glorious brick building on the corner of South Main Street and Warsaw Avenue was an alleged legendary watering hole known simply as “JM’s.” It was shut down in 1998 because it “enticed patrons to purchase alcoholic beverages and allowed an illegal form of gambling on the premises.”

Sounds pretty awesome.

#4. Jimdel’s

Alright, you youths. This one’s for you. As an alumnus over the age of 22 at the one time I visited this actual legal drinking establishment, it was the first time I recall feeling old. This “bar” was quite literally a dark Four Loko dance party warehouse behind a laundromat on the south side of town.

In the words of an anonymous friend, Jimdel’s was a “place where the walls sweat and the alcohol came in tall boys.”

#3. The Corner

With an honorable mention shoutout to the longer-lived Luigi’s in the same downtown location, this list would not be complete without The Corner. Opening in 2012 (and promptly closing in 2013), this awkward two-story bar-like restaurant was the quintessential casual downtown hangout.

I got free reign to start a trivia night, played a lot of Photo Hunt, and probably didn’t help the financials with my comped bar tab on those trivia nights. But let’s be honest, that location is cursed. Speaking of Trivia: Can you list all the locations that have been at 95 S Main Street since Luigi’s closed? Bonus points if they’re in chronological order.

#2. The Pub

With a business strategy as creative as the name, The Pub was a bright beacon in the “Let’s open a large room and serve Natural Light” line of thinking. It might have been open on other days than Tuesday, but honestly, no one can be sure.

Highlights of The Pub included really, really cheap pitchers of beer, fantastic full-stage karaoke, and that one friend-of-a-friend who would buy a tray of Jäger shots you only remembered while puking in a Keezell Hall bathroom during your Wednesday 9:05. (You were smart enough not to schedule an 8 a.m.)

#1. Highlawn Pavilion

There’s not much I can say about Highlawn that hasn’t already been said by Marie A. in her Pulitzer-worthy 2008 Yelp review, so I’ll keep this brief.

Most Thursday nights as a JMU senior in the mid-2000’s shared one common thread. You were at Highlawn, and you probably pregamed somewhere. (Maybe Caesar’s?) You waited in line to get in, and you were not dressed for the weather. You waited eagerly for that true one-hour happy hour bell, and you purchased 17 Dirty Shirleys for $17. (And hoarded them at a table with 9 of your besties.)

After that? Only your earliest Facebook albums may know. Congrats on making it up into VIP that one time.

18 Comments

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  1. Rob K / Oct 18 2018

    Great topic for a guest post! And as a member of the “Olds” – I can attest to the greatness that was JMs and Dave’s (before they moved to the expanded space).

  2. Dion Foxx / Oct 18 2018

    Jokers. Monday nights. $1 cover. $1 pitchers. Free hot dogs and live music.

  3. Zac / Oct 18 2018

    Shout out to Dukerz! Dukerz landed in the same spot/plaza as Caesars for about a year circa 2010/11 era. I feel like Dukerz lasted about as long as “Rocktown”

    (Caesars:Highlawn::Dukerz:Rocktown)

  4. Deacon Danny / Oct 18 2018

    Card carrying member of the ‘Olds’, and I can only say this is a biased list slanted toward those who are not old enough to be members of the ‘olds’ to realize the greatness that was JM’s:) – certainly worthy of a top 3 spot. Good read!

    Oh, and GO DUKES!

  5. zac / Oct 18 2018

    Great article! Can’t wait until Erik is Head Editor for BuzzFeed’s Font division!

  6. Josh / Oct 18 2018

    Nice Post! Only one I would say is missing is Bourbon Street on Main. It was the Thirsty Thursday spot in like late 2009 – early 2010 before Jimdels popped off. I remember we used to go to Dona Rosa and get the $10 fishbowl margaritas before getting moshed on the dance floor at Bourbon because it was too small for the number of people they let in. Those were some damn good times…

  7. AMD / Oct 18 2018

    Ummm…….Tully’s? Behind the mall?

  8. Swayze / Oct 18 2018

    Biltmore Grill for the Olds was great in the late 90s. Tuesday all you can eat “thumbs and toes”, which were awesome boneless hot wings. Good live music sometimes. And it was actually nice inside with a good deck too.

  9. Uncle Ron / Oct 18 2018

    This may be the most fun JMUSB post since the Tribute to Sanjeev / Mike’s Chevron. Several other old folks will likely bring up Dime Drafts at JM’s, which is pretty self explanatory for any of the younger Dukes generations.

    Another old timer recommendation is the Blue Foxx, which now appears to be something called the Terrace at Rocktown. Blue Foxx used to host a weekly karaoke night that was an incredible mix of students and townies. Also home to “The Walrus,” who was a Harrisonburg institution unto himself.

    This was a great read. It’s always fun to see how the specific details change over the generations, but the same general experiences mostly persist. “Let’s open a large room and serve Natural Light” is pretty much the prevailing and timeless business strategy.

  10. Drake / Oct 18 2018

    “…dark Four Loko dance party warehouse…” That’s a perfect line.

    Dave’s was a mixture of shitty service, cheap beer, good food depending on the cook that night, and a place to watch a football game if you stayed during a break. We would start out with a nice craft beer and then keep the buzz with $3 pitchers of Natty Lite. It did feel like the STDs of bars, but in spite of that, it was the place I fell in love with craft beer.

    I once saw a Bobcat Goldthwait look alike sing My Woman from Tokyo on my 21st birthday at the Pub. Best day of my life.

  11. Chuck Smith / Oct 18 2018

    Not sure of your time line with Dave’s, it wasn’t there yet in 1981. You didn’t mention the Elbow Room. (Bow Room).

  12. Priz / Oct 18 2018

    If I’m not mistaken, JM’s shutting down in 1998 was the second time it was shut down. It shut down our sophomore year(1995) and was closed for a couple of years…

  13. Mike / Oct 19 2018

    Don’t forget Mainstreet!

  14. SunChase / Oct 19 2018

    Some worthy honorable mentions:

    AJ Gators: yet another glorious corpse in the magnificent graveyard of Tuesday Night meat markets.

    Donna Rosa’s: Margs and tall boys? Chips and salsa? Fine. We’re not reinventing the wheel here or anything. But the thing I always appreciated about DR was the absolute shamelessness in serving underage students. Every Thursday, DR was just 4-8 endless rows of 19-year old sorority smoke, drunk off two margs and ordering a third. Loved it.

  15. Gene / Oct 19 2018

    My name is Gene, and I’m an “old.” Yeah, I’m the guy who brags to my fellow fortysomethings who didn’t go to JMU about seeing Dave Matthews Band at the Cool Aid benefit in ’92 and knowing they would be huge way before anyone else. That has limited value these days since they’re on the back nine of their career and Boyd has gone off the reservation. Don’t like it? GTF off my lawn then.

    Now that I’m out, this might be the best guest post I’ve seen and it’s perfect bye-week material. Kudos to you, Pitz, for this fine submission. Even tho you’re a millennial (obvi), you deserve way more than a participation award for this.

    I will just add that JM’s either needs to be #1 due to its overall greatness or not on the list at all because it wasn’t “short-lived.” It was there from at my freshman year in 1989, and if it lasted all the way until 1998, that’s ~10 years. Ten years might as well be 100 for a college bar. Ten years makes it the goddamn Commander’s Palace of college bars.

    Thanks again Pitz.

  16. Kristina / Oct 19 2018

    The weekly schedule circa my time of 2006-2009:
    Monday: Bourbon Street
    Tuesday: The Pub
    Wednesday: Dave’s
    Thursday: Highlawn (until it closed 1 month before my 21st… oh wait)
    Friday/Saturday: house parties
    Post Gameday Parties: The Cheer House – 1331 Devon Lane

    Visited Jimdel’s once and did not contract a disease. Success!

  17. Jared / Oct 19 2018

    What was that bar that had karaoke and super cheap pitchers on Tuesdays? I graduated 2004, so it was around at that time but I think it’s gone now

  18. OBXDuke1983 / Oct 20 2018

    I worked at the Luigi’s on Main in the early 80’s. It was a great meeting place for good cheap food and alcohol. It was so close, it was basically a campus bar/restaurant.
    But for great live music and cheap beer it would be hard to beat the Elbow Room. The Other Place being a close second.

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