- Associated Press - Monday, July 7, 2014

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - John Brandt sat outside the War Eagle Supper Club on Thursday night in a familiar but bygone position.

The co-owner of Auburn’s most famous bar was substituting for one of his employees as doorman on a warm and slow summer night - working the same job as when he was first hired at Supper Club more than 30 years ago.

“Back then, I was making 20 bucks a night. I wish I was making 20 bucks tonight,” Brandt said, joking with an off-duty bartender as she made her way in.

Brandt started working at Supper Club in 1980, and in the mid-80’s became a part-owner. Brandt said that, since buying into the business, he hadn’t worked the bar’s door a single night - until Thursday.

In between, Brandt has had a long history with the bar - but his time as part of the business only encompasses part of the building’s long history.

On Saturday, the War Eagle Supper Club is set to celebrate its 77th anniversary.

“I won’t say it couldn’t happen somewhere else, but you don’t find very many of them like this,” Brandt said.

According to former co-owner Hank Gilmer, who first bought into the company in 1977, the building was erected in 1937 by John Gazes, who had come over to the United States from Greece during the Great Depression. The building housed an actual supper club for a time, and was a private club when it was owned by the Lambert family from the 1950s through to the ‘70s.

It was Hank and Jeff Gilmer, and later Brandt, who opened membership to everyone, brought live music to the building and fostered the growth of its current vibe - which is more aligned with its modern slogan, “Cold Beer, Hot Rock.”

The Supper Club’s history can be found plainly throughout the building. Apart from the memorabilia and mementos covering its walls, it seems every part of the club has a story.

Brandt’s office has been repurposed from the old kitchen. Behind his desk, there were once two pizza ovens - which themselves were brought over from the old Pasquale’s downtown after the Kopper Kettle explosion in 1978. Above Brandt’s desk hangs the hood from an old deep fryer, where Byron Franklin’s wings were once cooked. Franklin later took his wing recipe across town to open Buffalo Connection.

Out back is the Supper Club’s original bus, which took patrons home after long nights years ago when cabs in town didn’t run past midnight. Now, it has been parked, dug into the ground, and made a shot bar - or rather, ‘The Shot Bus.’

There are plenty of memories there on-site at Supper Club’s location on South College, but perhaps even more poignant are the ones customers carry with them wherever they go.

“If you look at our hits at our website, we get people from overseas, a lot of military, people who graduated from Auburn - or just passed through Auburn and found the place,” Brandt said. “They order merchandise, T-shirts, to all over the place - probably a lot more out of the state than in-state.

“It’s a feel-good memory for a lot of students, especially when they find out that we’re still here.”

And, even after 77 years, Supper Club is going to still be there for years to come.

That’s according to Cory Hattier, Supper Club’s front bartender who recently bought into the business as a minority owner, alongside Brandt and co-owner Mark Cadenhead.

“I think the great thing about this place is that every person that comes in here can find something different that they love,” Hattier said. “And that’s something that won’t go anywhere any time soon.”

More memories will be made at Supper Club on Saturday, with the Velcro Pygmies on stage, and plenty of cold beer and hot rock.

“It’s not the prettiest building in the world, but it’s got everything you need,” Hattier said. “It’s got memories. It’s got tradition. It’s got the heart of Auburn.”

___

Information from: Opelika-Auburn News, https://www.oanow.com/


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