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Nolan's, Cleveland, 8:50 a.m.
There's a welcoming red neon sign hanging outside of Nolan's. It bears the name of the bar, but what it really says is "We're open, come on in. Spend your money here." It's the universal, unmistakable signal of a booze house open for business.
The bolted door, the electronic doorbell, and the security camera? Not so welcoming.
Once you're buzzed inside, heads immediately turn, silently saying, You are not regulars here. What are you doing? Or it could be that two twentysomethings in fancy peacoats just walked into a bar where there isn't a soul under 40.
Maureen Nolan is the owner and bartender, whose parents passed the business on to her. When told about the impending article, she quickly offers up a request: "Can you tell people we're not a private club?"
The bolted door, the electronic door bell, and the security camera do not diminish this impression.
"We sold 300 key cards a while ago, but they went quick, and I don't know if we'll do that again," she says, explaining how a select group of early guests can come and go without waiting to be buzzed in. "But just tell them to ring the doorbell. We're here, open every day at 5:30."
Some days, there's a line of folks at the door, waiting for her to open. "Like this morning, there were some ... I can't divulge their names, but they were here waiting, and I can promise you they were off-duty. I swear," she says, thinly hinting that they were cops, which is strange since third-shift cops don't get off by 5:30.
Eight seats are filled, and seven folks are nursing the champagne of beers, Miller High Life.
Nolan continues chatting — about the history of the bar, the various locales along Lorain it's occupied over the years, and other bars in the area that service the pre-dawn crowd. When somebody mentions a place that opens at 8:30, Nolan scoffs. "8:30? Hell, that's noon for us."
The lesson: Don't be scared off by frowning faces and elaborate security measures. Be bold, be adventurous, and you will be rewarded.
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