Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Dugout

In 2009, I did a post about 3rd Avenue between 13th and 14th Streets. In the comments section, people started talking about the Dugout, an old dive bar on the block. I asked if anyone had a photo of the bar, but nothing turned up.

Just a shadowy glimpse of it in a quick scene from Taxi Driver.



Ask, be patient, and ye shall receive.

Three years later, Jason Fernau sends in the following photo.


circa 1983

Jason also shares his Memories of the Dugout, 1982-1984:

The Dugout was halfway underground, you had those 3 steel plate covered steps descending down to the doors, wide steps like on a loading dock. Then one more step down and you were in. My recollection is that the lighting was all fluorescent, and was really bright as well, much brighter than a bar should be. Daytime it was bright fluorescent and the view out the doors was the vista of the sidewalk with the traffic behind it. People walking by were viewed from the thighs down. So you might see a miniskirt and great legs, or a shuffling older person, or a whole dog pulling a pair of legs. Nighttime it was brighter fluorescent. But somehow that never was an issue. I guess it just fit the place, or kept out those who couldn't stand it.

The Dugout had one night bartender, Bob from NJ. It seemed like he worked every night, though he must have had a day off. The place was never busy enough to need more than him. I think sometimes in a crunch there was somebody else who would rinse mugs and put them in the freezer. Nicest guy you could ever imagine. Ready with a smile, did what was needed, when it was needed, and we thanked him every time and he thanked us every time for coming in. From the first to the thousandth time you ordered a beer from him, Bob would say "Frosted Mug?" as if the answer could ever be anything but "Yes."

When you entered, bar on the left, tables in the middle, an old steam table lunch counter on the right hand side, looked like it hadn't been used in decades. I just heard from a fellow patron who said you could get a Liverwurst sandwich there for $1.50. Bob must have made it behind the bar.

There were frames on the walls filled with collections of snapshots of customers in the place, not old, contemporary to the time, and I remember that I was in one. I felt good about that. Faces seated around the plain wooden tables they had, some with mugs upraised.

There was an older gentleman, Saul, black glasses, stained beard, anchoring the back end of the bar, newspaper in front of him. He was usually there. We always used to speculate if he really owned the bar. I never found out one way or the other. he used to let us buy him drinks and he never bought drinks for anyone. Maybe that was the proof that he owned the place, seemed like a good strategy from his viewpoint.

50-cent draft in a frosted mug. What a deal.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Also my hang out around then. Saul owned the hotel a half block east on 13th Street where "Taxi Driver" had been filmed a few years earlier. Bob was the soul of generosity, standing rounds every eight rounds or so, and sometimes throwing parties for frequent visitors.

Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

Used to drop in the Dugout for a beer then head into the Variety for the usual blowjob. Oh those nights...

randall said...

Sounds like the best bar ever. If only I had a time machine.

Anonymous said...

Wow, the Dugout! I never had the chance to go in, but I heard many a tale about it. From around 1977-80, I worked at a Kelly Film in Flushing with a great guy named Charlie Gore, who developed & printed out the film. Charlie lived upstairs from the Dugout & spent most of his free time there. He's the guy who took & developed most, if not all, of the photos on those walls. Which we all got to preview first, along with hearing whatever new dirty joke he had heard at the bar the night before. Sadly, he died in the spring of 81. Helluva guy. RIP Charlie.

thwany said...

Very cool, thanks for this.

Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

In an early letter to you I talked about the Dugout "The Dugout was an old heavy drinking bar with old drinker, down 3 steps and you were in a seedy joint of which the Bowery would have proud." Boy, my memory is correct. That strip of 3rd Ave was seedy with hookers, faggots and every low life that staggered through the Bowery and onto 3rd Ave. My book '100 Whores' is about them as they creep into every hallway, every nook and cranny and you know they weren't too expensive at that. But what a sweet part of life that was, I miss them very much :(

Marty Wombacher said...

Thanks to Jason for sharing the photo and the memories. Great stuff!

Anonymous said...

75 cents for a beer in a frosted mug. Best deal around.

BabyDave said...

Wow. Thanks so much for this one, Jason and Jeremiah.
The Dugout was quite a convenient place to meet a pal before going around the corner to shoot some pool at Julian's, which somehow was on the second floor of the Academy of Music (later the Palladium).
And yes, I think the sandwiches must have come from behind the bar.
And my introduction to the Indiana Jones films came from the VCR there one afternoon.

Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

I also recall a tiny plague that hung above the doorway, "On this site nothing happened." That always brought a smile and a chuckle as I walked past. I suppose you had to be stoned to understand it.

kingofnycabbies said...

The Dugout was also a popular spot for rock fans and writers, with the Palladium around the corner and the Ritz (Webster Hall) two blocks down.

I have to say, though, that a buyback after eight rounds hardly sounds like "the soul of generosity."

laura said...

each to his own. i stayed on east 13th st. between 2nd/3rd in 1970. (for several weeks). that was the pits. have no memory of the "dugout", but it is an interesting old building.

Anonymous said...

Ah, the Dugout! I first went there around 1984 while a sophmore at Fordham. It was smitten. Like many joints of that era, it made you feel you were in a movie. Looked like a place the Beatles might have played during their Hamburg years.

I remember Bob the bartender. Nicest guy in the world. Looked a bit like Joe Dimaggio. Always good for a few knocks on the House I also remember the fella with dark glasses and the beard. Always there, never utttered a word.

There were also some items related to some NYU frat on the walls. I heard it was their regular watering hole and saw some groups of guys that might have qualified. But I never saw a brawl or anything resembling bad behavior. There were also some photos of the NYU baskeball team. One had a player who had been in my 7th grade Latin class. Small world.

I continued going there during my first job/suit and tye days in the late 80s/early 90s. Never took a date there and can't claim to have procured a number there. It was just a mandatory stop while bar hopping in what was then an interesting and still slightly wild part of town. Even brought a visiting friend from England there. He liked it.

I will never forget the shock of seeing that it had been sold and become some abomination called the Pit Stop. The sad shape of things to come...

Thanks for posting the photos. Makes me crave a few Schltz drafts in frosted mugs.

laura said...

"J" what is the history of this little building? was it 100 yrs old? older?

Tony Devers said...

The perfect bar on a summers day; cold air conditioning and even colder frozen mugs of Miller Lite for $1:50. (1990).

Goggla said...

Thanks for sharing these great memories.

BabyDave said...

Anon 1:58 – I had forgotten all about the Pit Stop. My mind went straight to Finnerty’s, which wasn’t bad in the Dugout space but turned into bit of a zoo in its later location, contributing to the Second Avenue drunk-parade show. I think I went into the Pit Stop once and never went back. Remind me – was it some kind of fake biker bar?

laura said...

well i guess IF i had to choose: i would take that sleezy block instead of frat bars. i have no interest in you know........& dont like sleeze. BUT @ least hookers & hustlers are quiet. i cant think of anything more gross than an all night college bar. besides the condos, what else is going on 3rd/13th??

Anonymous said...

The dugout was the bar of choice for Stuyvesant students who ditched school to play pool at Julians. They never seemed to have a problem serving us at age 16-17 and we could afford the 75 cent frosted mugs of beer. A perfect marriage. This was in the early 80s when Stuy was still on 15th St btw 1st and 2nd ave of course.

Cheese said...

After it was the Dugout, it became the Pit-Stop, which was a fake biker bar, but served $7 pitchers of 'light' or 'dark' which very may well have been a direct line coming from the urinals. After that it was The Looking Glass which had sort of an Alice in Wonderland exterior and some funky painted walls inside to fit the 'grunge' esthetic that was popular in the day. It then became O'Flaherty's, an attempt at a irish pub, which was just awful.

Dan C. said...

I lived on 13th St in the mid-80's and the Dugout was the place for $3 pitchers with the 4th round usually a buyback from Bob. Great afternoon spent if there were 3 of you needing a place to chill. It was never crowded (like Grassroots on St Marks) and not full of folks looking for a fight (like at Holiday Cocktail lounge).

Mike Clelland! said...

I lived across the street from THE DUGOUT for a few years, i was probably 21 years old. That place was a joy. Don was the week night bartender. I used to take my black cat there (Brian) and let him roam around while I got drunk with a close knit set of pals. New York was never the same after that place went the way of The Dodgers.

I have some photos of me inside.

Mike C

Jeremiah Moss said...

Mike, would love to see the inside shots. thanks!

Cindy Brolsma said...

I spent so much time there during my four years at NYU that Bob had a big cake for my graduation and I brought my parents there to meet him. They thanked him for taking good care of me. I will look for photos when I get a chance. I remember sharing liverwurst with Mike Clelland's cat, Brian.

Neal D said...

Bob was the original bartender. His aunt opened the joint in the late Fifties and gave him a job.

It was Bob who took all those photos. He received a camera for Christmas and relentlessly photographed the patrons.

Smitty was the guy who washed the frozen mugs on busy nights.

2de80626-e1d9-11e2-952f-000bcdcb471e said...

My name is Daniel Frey...Dougout Bob is my Dad. He is doing great ,if any on has any pictures of my Dad working behindn the bar or one of his many parties that he had,by the way he paid for out of his own pocket.My email is buckfever612@AOL.com. just put dougout bob on message so I can elimate spam mail.
Thanks Daniel Frey
If any won wants me to give message to him I can do so

Jim Gore said...

It's truly exciting to read all these great stories about The Dugout for it is a MAJOR part of my childhood memories! I am the youngest of Charlie Gore's 7 sons and as 12 and 13 year olds, my brother and I would hop on a train from The Bronx to go visit my Dad at The Dugout almost every weekend. We would first go down into the bar to get the key to the front door of the apartments above so we can bang on our old man's door to let him know we're there and then we'd go back down to the bar to get our infamous Shirley Temples from Bob while we waited for Dad to come down and we'd spend the whole day there with him or occasionally go to a movie where he'd catch up on the rest of his sleep. We carried that tradition until his death on May 3, 1981 which was just 3 days after his 50th birthday in that same apartment above the bar. Great memories! RIP Pop!

Eddie said...

An anonymous person said some very nice things about a regular at the dugout named Charlie Gore on September 25th of 2012 . Well , Charlie was my dad . My little brother and I spent many weekends at the Dugout back in the late 70's .Many of the photos on the walls were of us . We had lots of laughs and met many characters there. The guy I remember best was Bob , the bartender , great guy , as an adult he gave me many a free beer in a frosted mug . I still think about the old place sometimes , and whoever you are , thanks for the kind words about my dad. If anyone has any of those photos from back then I would really like to see them again. Oh shit ! My brother , Jim , already wrote a comment , just read that .

Eddie said...

Saul , a good guy , was not the owner . The owner's name was Amil (never knew his last name). He was also a very good guy , He also hung around the bar almost all of the time . He moved to Florida later and left the bar to his son .

stephanie banks said...

OK Guys I need to set the record straight here. First, hello Daniel, don't know if you would remember me.
My name is Stephanie and in 1971 when I was 18 I married Bob Damrau, the son of the owners of the Dugout. I remember your dad, Uncle Bob and your mom so well. How nice it must be to read all of these wonderful accolades about your Dad! They are spot on - and then some.
For the rest of the readers, the Dugout was owned by Kurt and Mary Damrau. Their son, also "Bob" worked the night shift - till 4 am when we were first married. We all lived in NJ and year or so later, the Damrau's opened another bar not far from our home. My father in law Kurt was then Vice President of NY state Liquor dealers association and President of Manhattan Liquor dealers assoc. Tragically, a year or so later he suffered a fatal heart attack while driving to the NJ bar. I don't remember his age, but I'm going to venture a guess that he was in his 40's. After his funeral in NJ, the whole funeral procession drove to the city so we could bring him passed the Dugout one more time. I have so many memories of the Dugout! I seemed to always be there! It was a necessary stop on the way to any thing in the city - mostly concerts back then. The names of the regulars mentioned on this blog are familiar. One other name is a guy called "three finger Al". Does any one remember him? One of the other things that I will never forget is that my mother -in law, Mary Damrau always paid for her , and our, drinks. She told me that it was bad business to drink for free in your own establishment. I will never forget that little life lesson. BTW - "dugout Bob", or Uncle Bob as I knew him,is a brother -in -law to the Damrau's.
Unfortunately,my marriage didn't last very long. Now I can look back and say we were way to young. But I do have a lot of good memories.

RP said...

I went to Stuyvesant High School in the early 80s (back when it was nearby on 15th ST.) and we would occasionally cut school and head to the Dugout as they didn't seemed to care about our age. After downing a few 75 cent beers served in chilled mugs, we would head around the corner to Julian's to shoot pool. Damn, NY sure has changed...

Anonymous said...

conforsmallI am Robert Kurt Damrau KURT and MARY'S son my grandpa also Bob known as pop bought the Dugout during probation with group of men and ran it during probation serving booze in coffee cups. the building was built in the 1860's there was a Chinese restaurant above the bar until the 1900's then the restaurant became a barbershop were I got my first haircut in 1952. my dad became a partner in 1949 when got out of the navy . which is when the name was changed to DAMRAU'S DUGOUT which it was called till my mom sold it after my dad died . UNCLE BOB started woking there in 1957 or 58 he is one of the best men I have ever known in my life.after getting married my parents my sister and I lived in the building till we moved to NJ in 1957. my sister DOT MY brother John and myself learned how to work by helping my parents in this business I worked there from 1969 till 1974 behind the bar the best job I ever had I met men that started coming in ther in the 1930's . and heard many a story about my granpa MY dad my dads brothers KENNY AND ROMIN WHO ALSO WORKED THERE IN THE 50'S. IF you would like to know more you can reach me I CAN GO ON FOR PAGES rkdamrau@yahoo.com and thank you Stephnie for helping with the history Robert K Damrau