One More for the Road: Saying Goodbye to the 34 Club 

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click to enlarge The staff invites everyone to grab one last drink before the bar shuts down for good on New Year's Eve. - ERIC FRAZIER
  • Eric Frazier
  • The staff invites everyone to grab one last drink before the bar shuts down for good on New Year's Eve.

Bergman doesn't want to just close the doors and be done with it. He's been trying to work out a lease with another nearby property owner. But so far, his luck is coming up short, as several have already turned him down. No one seems to want a collection of heavy drinkers and old smokers, no matter how cheerful. Even an empty space across the street, owned by Keat Properties, has declined to rent to the venerable old dive.

"They said they weren't interested in us setting up shop over there. They said they wanted a national chain," Bergman says, flummoxed. "My assumption is that they were thinking there would be some stability in that, but I don't know how much more stable we could be than a bar that's been here for 75 years. Qdoba was over there, but didn't last, so you see how that worked out."

But Bergman remains optimistic about reopening somewhere else in the neighborhood. ''We'll be new and improved, and we'll keep on rolling. Squeeze another couple of decades out of the old girl," he says, looking fondly up at the walls, like she's an old ship about to be dismantled. "I'm totally invested in keeping it going, absolutely. I think people would follow us. You can't go down to Drunken Monkey or whatever they're calling it this week and act like you can here. I mean, let's be honest. They'll tell your ass to leave, that's the sad reality. This is more of a saloon than anything."

Someone puts money in the digital jukebox and Nina Simone's "Feeling Good" starts playing. One of the patrons calls out, "Jack, how about one more and then I'm gonna get the hell outta here." He downs a shot and saunters out into the street.

"I would love for people to come in before we close and get one last drink here," Mullen says. While Bergman searches frantically for new digs, the staff is planning one last blowout for their final day on New Year's Eve — and all of St. Louis is invited.

So before the 34 Club closes her doors one last time, belly up to the bar and be a part of the history that's kept the place alive. You just might hear a few good stories. Or better yet, you might become part of one.

Promises Bergman, "We're gonna have one hell of a send-off party."

Follow Kevin Korinek on Twitter @_eternalcowboy or contact him via www.kevinkorinek.com.

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