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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The bar must go on: Benton business back

Friday, August 5, 2005

(Photo)
From inside his makeshift bar off the deck of the Corner Bar and Grill in Benton, owner Trevor Michael waits on a customer.
BENTON -- A marquee sign outside the Corner Bar and Grill reads: "This week -- Fire Hot Wings." And the owners aren't kidding.

On Monday a fire destroyed the interior of the Benton bar, but surprisingly, it hasn't destroyed the spirit of its regular inhabitants.

"This is a 50-year-old historical landmark," said bar co-owner Trevor Michael. "A lot of people were calling me and saying, 'Don't close it.' So the next morning I thought, 'We could do it on the parking lot.'"

By Wednesday -- wings night -- the bar was open for business.

And why not? The Corner has been the site for several outdoor benefits over the years, and Michael already had most of the equipment, he said.

A large white tent stands in the bar's gravel parking lot complete with tables and chairs. A smaller tent stands as another shelter.

"I just want to thank everybody for their help and support," Michael said.

Owners of the neighboring bar, Schindler's Tavern in New Hamburg, donated a couple of tables and chairs that sit under the tent. Cape Porta-Potty donated two portable bathrooms complete with an outside basin, which Michael rented. A jukebox was also donated and sits outside the bar plugged into an outdoor electrical outlet.

Michael even created a makeshift bar, located off the corner of the deck. A large mobile cooler unit stores beverages, and smaller coolers are used for quick use behind the "new" bar.

On Wednesday several locals showed up for the weekly wings night, and Thursday night they piled under the white tent for the weekly Texas Hold'em night.

But all isn't perfect.

"It's a little different," Michael said. "It's a lot hotter and harder to run a bar outside."

Michael also admitted some concerned residents have called Missouri Liquor Control on him, but he maintains he's not doing anything illegal by running the bar outside.

Prior to the fire, the bar's deck was open to its visitors and the parking lot adjacent to the building was used for other events, Michael said.

However, Michael did obtain a catering permit, which enables him to run the bar on the parking lot for an extended period of time. The current permit expires in five days, and then Michael can renew it, he said.

Michael is also working on continuing wings night on Wednesdays although state health codes forced him to stop serving food until his bar meets regulation.

"But I'm working on it," Michael said. He's also looking into hosting "free feeds," which could be made with his deep fryer and barbecue grill.

Michael noted there's no phone service at the tavern, but it's still open during regular hours.

He may be taking a positive approach to the bad situation, but Michael admitted his heart sank when he walked into the burnt bar early Monday.

"My whole life went up in smoke," said Michael, who's run the bar for the past eight years.

Wall memorabilia, signs and appliances melted in the fire. Michael was able to save a few sentimental items including autographed pictures of country artist Tanya Tucker and local favorite J.R. Bollinger.

For those wondering, the fire has been ruled accidental, and the cause is still undetermined, Michael said.

As for the future of the Corner's building, Michael said he doesn't know what will happen.

"I've just got to keep on working," Michael smiled. "It (this bar) is my livelihood."

So it's back to business as usual, Michael said, adding bartenders will be on duty and the beer will be cold.

After all, the Benton tavern has always been a place to socialize for many residents, pointed out one bar regular Thursday afternoon.

"It's like a coffee shop," he said. "But I like beer a lot better than I like coffee."