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Volume 68, Issue 105, Thursday, February 27, 2003

Arts & Entertainment

Next Door art bar for tragically hip

By Mario Gudmundsson

liquid diet

We didnit even see the black dog until after midnight because itis not like a dog is something you expect to encounter at a bar when youire juggling a drink and a conversation. Somehow, at the Next Door Art Gallery and Spirits, itis not such a surprise.

What does come as a surprise is that the bar is next door to Rudyardis, conveniently in the same building. Many people donit even realize itis there, and I had overlooked it many times before.

The Next Door is a great find. Itis a small place with all the feeling of any bar in New York Cityis Soho.

Walls on one side of the main room and the ceiling are painted black and feature the unique works of local artists, which are for sale and change frequently. 

A small table for four people on a little platform gives a great view of everything going on, and there are a couple of booths by the windows, several big sofas with coffee tables and a foosball table in the back room next to a jukebox.

"We have the most versatile jukebox in town," said Cara Gretch, who has been bartending for the 21-and-older crowd at the Next Door for over two years. "It has everything and itis one of my favorite things about working here. The music is always awesome."

The music selection really is worth taking a look at, as one can find everything from the Pixies to Tom Waits to Billy Idol and the Flaming Lips.

My latest visit to the Next Door was on a Monday, when the bartenders say the establishment usually gets packed and rowdy. We found a laid-back crowd of regulars dressed in their finest rockstar duds, quaffing quaffs and looking hipper-than-thou.

Tragically hip is the only way to describe many of the patrons, who find a stylistic outlet in that kind of rockabilly, Betty Page hairdo, tattoos-on-necks look that we used to see at Emois. Itis a fun and diverse crowd.

Drink prices are very friendly to student budgets. Mondays feature $2 draft beers and $3 you-call-its all night, and happy hour specials run all week.

Art is a big focus here. "Why leave the gallery for a drink, when you can have a drink at the gallery?" the Next Door's owner, Mike Bell, said.

Artist showings change every six weeks, and the back of the bar has a consignment wall.

"The Next Door is just a hip place to go to see great local art, pick your own music, and have a drink with friends," communication senior Michelle Lehmann said. "Itis one of those places where anything goes."

Next Door Art Gallery and Spirits

2020 Waugh St.

The verdict: Artis on the walls (and on the bartenders) and great musicis on the jukebox, but please, leave the pets at home.
 Send comments to dcshobiz@mail.uh.edu

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