I remember hearing the news from a friend.
“There are lights on over there. I’m going to check it out.”
That’s how I discovered KClinger’s Tavern. A co-worker lived near the bar, which replaced the old Antonio’s, which I still think was a pretty elaborate front for an off-track betting parlor, but that’s a different story. I think we all knew a bar was going in there, but didn’t know what it would be like.
We could not believe what we found when we finally got inside. You have to remember, this was 1995. The notion of craft beers and numerous taps really didn’t exist most places, especially in Hanover. As a newspaper reporter in the last months before getting married, I could not have found a happier place.
It didn’t hurt that John, Bill and Cindy didn’t treat us as customers. We were friends when we sat at the bar or in a booth. I haven’t been to KClinger’s for a long time so the news that the iconic bar is closing doesn’t hurt me as much as it once would have. Things are final yet, but a quick check of the delinquent tax records shows the company listed at 300 and 304 Poplar Street owe about $25,000 in back taxes.
That doesn’t mean I don’t fee bad for the people who work there and still go there. It sucks to lose your favorite hangout or your job.
Here are a few of my favorite KClinger’s memories:
- I first tasted pumpkin beer at the bar. It must have been 1996 or so. The style is pretty trendy now, but Bill had received some samples and gave us a few for free to see if it was something worth selling.
- My wife and I went to Wilmington, Del., for our first anniversary in 1996. A pub where we had dinner one night featured this amazing buffalo chicken sandwich. When we came back to town, I told John about it. The next time we ate at KClinger’s, John wouldn’t let me order. He wanted to show me his new creation. That’s how the Buffalo Soldier ended up on the menu there. I probably didn’t have to pay for it the first half dozen times I ordered it.
- Chatting with Billy and/or Doug as they tended bar.
- The whole notion of the beer passport club. I never joined because I didn’t have that broad of horizons back then. I tried some new things, but didn’t care to keep track. Still, the idea of encouraging people to expand their drinking horizons was a good call. Well, except for when you heard someone drunkenly bragging about how little time it took them to reach a certain level. Luckily, that was just a small minority.
- I had to work in sports at the paper the night of the legendary Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield fight. You know, the one in 1997 where Tyson bit off a piece of Holyfield’s ear. I rushed out of the paper’s office to try to get to KClinger’s before the first round only to find that they weren’t letting people in. They had reached their limit. Luckily, I managed to weasel my way in since I was a regular and didn’t have anyone with me. That wasn’t the best part, though. People were milling around outside, unable to get in. Instead of chasing them off or being a jerk, Bill told them they could watch the fight through the front window – you couldn’t hear the sound inside anyway – and brought sodas out to placate them.
Stories like that last one are what make up the memories of the KClinger’s I knew. It was a business which took care of its regulars while always trying to let others know why they should come back. I stopped going over the years for a number of reasons – I didn’t go out as much, it catered to a much younger crowd, bad service on a few occasions – but that doesn’t take away the special memories I have.
I hope things end up on a positive note in the long run for Bill, Cindy, Doug and everyone else affiliated with the bar.