This article appears in the January 2011 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe, please visit loumag.com.
Don’t know about you, but we could really use a drink right about now. So we’ve scoured the city to find our 21 favorite bars — from upscale jazz joints to dives where your beer bottle sticks to the table. We’ve also tossed in some personalities familiar with local nightlife and quotes we overheard while out on the town.
Barry Rogers is 70 years old and has been coming to the Bambi Bar (2701 Bardstown Road) for nearly 40 years. As a matter of fact, he has lived right around the corner for about as long. Back in 1970, he bartended here. “Saved me a couple DUIs over the years,” he says with a laugh. “The place looks about the same as it did back then. Well, the TVs are a lot better now.”
The bar has a plywood exterior; inside, the ceiling gradually slopes from the front to the back. Rogers and his wife Pam, 62, have made some memories over the years. “We don’t want to think about how much money we’ve spent here,” she says. One of the stories her husband shares is of a black terrier named B.J., who used to roam busy Bardstown Road and would sit on a bar stool and slurp beer out of a paper bowl. There was also a man they called Dr. Doobie. “He smoked a lot of doobies,” Barry Rogers says. “Well,” his wife replies, “we should let them figure that out themselves.” Any other good times? “A lot of ’em are blurry,” he says.
Originally the location of a gas station, the building once housed a tavern called the Eastview Inn. In the mid-1950s, it became the Bambi Bar. Legend has it that deer-print wallpaper once covered the walls, and the nickname Bambi Bar eventually stuck. (Talk to a bartender today and he’ll tell you the current wooden walls have entombed that wallpaper.) The most famous thing about the bar has to be the Bambi Walk, a drinking journey that has participants travel from the Bambi down Bardstown Road, getting a drink at every stop along the way. “It started in the ’80s,” Barry Rogers says. “They used to end at the Bambi Bar.” Says his wife: “A few hearty souls could make it that far.”
Photo: John Nation