- Associated Press - Sunday, July 31, 2016

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) - Things were heating up on a winter evening in the late-1990s at one end of the bar at The Lounge. Five members of the Palmer College Chiropractic hockey team began to moon a group of Loras College opponents at the other end.

The 4-foot-11 bartender, Mary Love, then in her 60s, leaped into action.

“I ran over there, jumped up on the shelf and slid onto the bar,” the 83-year-old co-owner of The Lounge recalled. “Then, I swatted all five of their bare bottoms - went right across all of them. The Loras players got a laugh out of it and left through the back door.”

“Mary runs a tight ship,” said Carla Wieser, a 28-year bartender at the tavern across from the Five Flags Center. “She is a live wire.”

The Telegraph Herald (https://bit.ly/2adKqek ) reports that Mary’s husband, Phil, 79, is the calming presence. They opened The Lounge on Feb. 1, 1980.

“I thought, ‘What is this place?’” Phil recalled. “Well, it’s a cocktail lounge. So we called it The Lounge.”

It hasn’t changed much. The couple gutted the long narrow layout with a room on the side, put in a new bar, carpeting, booths and upholstered chairs. Then there’s the jukebox, with its eclectic mix of music.

“They say we have the best jukebox in town,” Phil said proudly.

They’re also known for their clean and dirty swamp waters. Both contain lime vodka and lemonade. The original “clean” is topped with apricot brandy; the “dirty” has blackberry brandy. The drink originated as an accident.

“Somebody ordered a swamp water and I accidentally grabbed the wrong bottle with blackberry in it,” Mary said. “I told him I’d pour it out, but he tried it and he liked it.”

Regular patrons like The Lounge and the Loves. Many met their future spouses there, including Greg and Lorie Foley.

“They’re such wonderful people,” said Lorie, a former bartender at The Lounge. “Mary works so hard. Everybody knows her. Everybody loves her. It’s really like a ‘Cheers’ atmosphere.”

Phil said the bar can hold 72 people. And, there’s room for several more in a back patio. At 50 years in the business - he and Mary ran The Finale for about 10 years prior to The Lounge - Phil might hold Dubuque’s longevity honor.

“I like the people the best,” he said. “We’ve met thousands of people we otherwise would have never met.”

“The customers are like family here,” the 60-year-old Wieser said. “It’s a very eclectic group. (The Lounge) holds a lot of history for people.”

Much of the history is on the walls and ceilings. There are nearly 470 mugs from around the world hanging from hooks and dozens of signed dollar bills tacked to a bar overhang. Phil hung a cup up at one end when they first got the bar, and it caught on.

Phil and Mary have turned down offers to buy the bar. They’re still considering it, but they really hope whoever buys it leaves it as it is.

“You know what some of my customers say to me?” Mary asked. “They say, ‘You’re a legend in this town.’ Now what can you say to that?”


Information from: Telegraph Herald, https://www.thonline.com

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