What a dive!
Longtime Lompoc watering hole Jasper’s was recently named the sixth best dive bar in the country as part of Playboy’s Guide to America’s Greatest Bars, published in the magazine’s August 2010 edition which hit newsstands this week.
“It’s quite a deal,” said bar manager Stan Young. “We’re the smallest city on the list.”
Other winners in the “dive bar” category were located in cities such as New York, Boston, Nashville and New Orleans. Specs in San Francisco was the only other West Coast bar to make the list.
But just what qualifies as a “dive bar?”
Initially used to describe basement-level speakeasies during prohibition, Playboy’s guide describes the institution: “A church for down-and-outers and those who romanticize them, a rare place where high and low rub elbows — bums and poets, thieves and slumming celebrities. It’s a place that wears it’s history proudly.”
It is a description that Young said summed up Jasper’s pretty well.
“Everyone here agreed with it,” Young said, gesturing to the usual late afternoon crowd of regulars gathered around the bar.
The bar’s clientele is best
described as “eclectic,” according to Young, “a mix of customers goes from the City Council to the dregs.”
Founded in 1933 by Jasper Wygal, the bar has changed locations, and ownership, but remains strongly tied to the past — just look on the walls, where nearly every available inch of space has been used to hang a decoration.
“We’ve tried to create little spaces where different parts of Lompoc’s history is covered,” said Young as he surveyed the bar area.
Farming tools on the ceiling and old photos bear witness to the city’s agricultural past. In one spot there is a collection of missile launch memorabilia from Vandenberg AFB. Dozens of local signs dot the walls, even an awning for “D.J.’s Saloon,” a different bar that happens to have the same owner (Mickey Sarkin) as Jasper’s.
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On the left end of the bar is a shrine of sorts to the comedian W.C. Fields, who picked Lompoc as the setting for his 1940 movie “The Bank Dick.”
There are so many items that picking out the more recent additions brings out contradicting opinions in the regulars.
Former barkeeper, and current loyal customer Cheryle Woodward said she has been coming to Jasper’s for 23 years.
“I come in, and it’s like, ‘Hi honey, I’m home,” said Woodward.
It takes Young and Woodward a minute to discuss, but they finally decide that a small rock, tucked up on a shelf above the bar is probably one of the most recent additions to the Jasper’s collection. Woodward said it was painted by a local woman, and bar regular, who recently died.
“That’s the kind of thing that gets added a lot, things that personalize the bar,” said Young.
The uniqueness of the bar certainly helped sway the Playboy staff to consider Jasper’s a top dive bar, but the place has more to offer than just decorations and a reputation for strong drinks. A popcorn machine, pool tables, Thursday night karaoke, and a back patio area for smoking and card playing all help to add a sense of activity.
Josie Barrett has been coming in to the bar for about 10 years by her recollection.
“We’re like a family here,” said Barrett, settling down to a table on the back patio that has been built out of an old bowling alley lane.
Sitting next to her is Ed, who declined to give a last name. The talk of the table was about the Playboy article.
“The only problem is we don’t have girls in here like in the magazine,” jokes Ed.
Another Jasper’s alum, Keith Sanders, said he was happy the bar’s recognition.
“It’s a great showing. We made No. 6 out of the whole nation.”