Hanging Out in Rockford: Another crazy week downtown

Another crazy weekend downtown. The bars and restaurants are packed. Friday is good, but with Saturday comes the Pardi Gras, and with the Pardi Gras comes music (also it is the night of the Legal Follies). The Irish Rose is busy from 4:30 p.m. on. I have decided not to drink. I want to be at my best for Karen Elyea’s county board fund-raiser the following day. I spend the early time working the crowd and seating people. A major party clears out of the back room, and all my waitresses work in unison. Before you know it, we have completely reseated the back dining room.

The kitchen is working at top speed, and everything is going without a hitch. I am so proud of my people. They are acting like pros. When the entire place is full again around 9:30 p.m., I decide to take a break. I wander down to Little Italy (As I leave the Rose, Holland Zander is just starting her set. I have a pang of guilt. Holland will think I don’t love her. But then I realize she knows me well enough that that shouldn’t be a question. Besides, I will see her later.) and sit at Amy’s bar and have a drink. Yeah, I know I said I wasn’t going to, sometimes (most times) it goes like that. Nate Hemenway is sitting next to me at the bar, and he recognizes the shirt I am wearing. He bought it for me, I think on my birthday. But then Nate becomes more interested in talking to Julie. I can’t say I blame him, and I am left with no one to talk to.

I wander out the door, and curiosity draws my attention into the Casbah. I know Elisha and Violetta are manning the door tonight. I helped set that up via an e-mail to Kim Wheeler. I decide to go in. I pay the $7 cover for Pardi Gras. I always believe in paying cover, even though a lot of times downtown people will try to wave me by. I can afford it, and I believe in supporting the system.

I walk over to the bar, and Elisha and Violetta are standing there, waiting for their shift to start. Then it does, and I hug Elisha before she goes to the front to do her part to support the River District event. I sit at the bar and order a couple of sweet shots to be sent to the girls. Frank opens a new bottle of cabernet for me. I am on my second glass of wine. I try to pay for my drinks, but Cheri Flynn beats me to it. She and Dave are standing at the bar right next to me.

Cheri and I talk about supporting other owners. She and Dave are really good about that. We both agree we like to see everybody make money. I tell her I have never been to Tiger Tail (she and Dave operate it as well as State Street Station). She says I should make a point of coming out. I make a mental note to do so. It could make for a really interesting column. Besides, what is better than beautiful young women dancing in very little clothing? I might be old, but I am definitely not dead.

Then, the band starts. Champaign, Fire and Ice is the name of the group, and they are really good. Cheri and Dave are enjoying the show, and laughing out loud. Nello stops by to say, “Aren’t they great?” We all agree they are. The girl singer (I can’t help wondering if that is Champaign) is dressed in a skin-tight outfit. All in all, it is a pretty interesting show. I order another glass of wine.

One of the cocktailers drops a tray of drinks, and Nello is cleaning it up. I help him a little, but I miss some of the glass. Another person points it out and helps. Then, he is trying to mop up the spilled liquor with bar towels. The absolutely drop-dead cute bartender comes out from behind the bar with a handful of towels, and crouches to clean up the mess, walking frog-style across the floor as she meticulously mops the floor. I look at Cheri. She smiles, reading my mind. We talk about how cute the bartender is, sort of a sexy librarian look.

Then, the sexy librarian bartender is back behind the bar. I have another glass of wine (three). I tell the adorable bartender I enjoyed watching her clean the floor, and that I am hoping someone else will drop something. Then, I am out the door, and back to the Rose. The place is absolutely packed. Summer’s dad (Tony, who is president of the Polish Falcons) is in the back room with friends having dinner, but I decide that if I stay up any longer, I will drink some more, and so I decide (Karen’s fund-raiser is tomorrow) that I should make my way upstairs to bed. At 4 a.m., I wake. I walk over to the computer, and pull a trial settlement. It is the largest night so far this year.

Mike Leifheit’s “Hanging Out In Rockford” reviews locally-owned restaurants, businesses and Rockford life. These columns are available on his Web site, IrishRoseRockford.com. Leifheit is owner of the Irish Rose restaurant in the downtown River District.

From the March 1-7, 2006, issue

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