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    Eat & Swig

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    This article originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of Louisville Magazine. 
    To subscribe to Louisville Magazine, please click here.

    By Wesley Bacon

     

    “April! What’s the name of the drink you made us last weekend?” a rowdy patron shouts to the pregnant bartender. “Purple with Goldschläger and spice?” April pours and twists in a bath of pink neon light. Signs that read “Bar Cocktails” and “Ladies Invited” glow through the pitch-black window tint. 

    Hikes Point Bar and Lounge is in a popular shopping center on the corner of Hikes Lane and Taylorsville Road. Its mysterious doorway, topped with a whimsical HPL sign, makes it difficult to pass by without questions. “As kids we would walk to Subway, and sometimes they had the doors open,” my friend Andrea told me. “We would always peek our heads in with curiosity, but you could never see anything because it was so dark.” Andrea, a Hikes Point native, went on to tell me her parents preferred the Air Devils Inn, HPL’s archrival. My coworker Tori, also raised in Hikes Point, had a very different reaction when I mentioned a visit to HPL. Her eyes lit up above her excited gasp, and I knew I had to balance the scale. 

    A familiar tune punctures the roar of Friday-night chatter and commences a night of karaoke. The seal is broken, causing tipsy customers to throw their heads back and wail with echoing melodies from the shadows of the far left corner. “Everyone loves ‘Strawberry Wine,’” my friend Josh says. The other bartender removes his cell phone from its belt clip and snaps a portrait of himself with April. I dig in my purse for cash, the only accepted currency.

    The black and dingy tile floor is lit by pendant lights from distant childhood memories at Pizza Hut. There’s an elaborate mural of dogs sipping drinks like humans. Holiday-gift-wrap wallpaper stretches across the left side of the room. A working pay phone is proudly displayed above a rack of green and white coat hangers. HPL is a dimly lit hallway that leads to someone’s Narnia. By Narnia, I mean a decrepit ladies’ restroom with saloon doors located next to a karaoke machine. Clusters of gray hair and pleated khakis chirp their highs and lows between debates over what April can and can’t drink while pregnant. Josh and I sink into a booth and notice a sleeping man snoring behind us. We direct our attention to French Kiss Productions, the karaoke provider. 

    The woman behind the equipment is fully engaged, wiggle-dancing to filler songs and occasionally picking up the mic. Around midnight, the karaoke crowd marches in, draped head to toe in UK Wildcat gear. One man breaks away from the group and takes his place in the karaoke corner. “Give it up for Groucho!” French Kiss shouts. Groucho grabs the mic and immediately rolls into “Funkytown.” Suddenly, the seats around us are empty. Each man grabs the closest lady and engages in an overly suggestive dance I hope to never see again. Groucho moves around the empty floor while his fans gyrate on one another in various dark corners. Josh raises his eyebrows and scans the room. “I think this is our cue to leave,” he says. 

     

    Photo by Wesley Bacon

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