Support Local Journalism. Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club.

Drunk by Dawn? 

Everybody does it on St. Patrick’s Day. Meet the folks who do it every other day

cover-1.jpg

On March 17, bars throughout our great land will throw open their doors before the sun comes up. And, bedecked in leprechaun hats and ridiculous green beads, folks will line up for green beer and whiskey and eggs, angling for 11 on the blotto meter before the morning news is over.

Yes, the Feast of St. Patrick is Amateur Day. It's the one moment each year when we seek a momentary escape from the 9-to-5 grind for the pursuit of finding a place to pee that will not get us arrested.

But for a privileged few, this is life. The third-shifters who toil while the rest of us sleep need their booze too; it just so happens they need it when you need toast.

In the days when Cleveland's ports and factories churned 'round the clock, countless bars awaited the swell of thirsty workers ending their day at the exact moment everyone else's day was starting. Today, only a noble handful of them still cater to the morning crowd, firing up their neon signs and slinging shots at 5:30 a.m. — the earliest hour at which Ohio law allows alcohol to be served.

There aren't many, and they aren't particularly easy to find. But they are out there, quietly providing the retirees, the overnighters, the unemployed, and the vaguely degenerate with beer and liquor. They are propping up your America.

As the rest of mankind joins them for a day, we celebrate Cleveland's dawn drinkers with a tour of their world — a land where vodka and gin flow like coffee and juice, and where green beer might just get your ass kicked. Here's hoping you'll join them someday.

Rowley Inn, Tremont; 7:13 a.m.

The Rowley Inn is tucked away on a residential street on the non-yuppie side of Tremont — the part with no fancy chefs.

The two-story building sits opposite the famed Christmas Story House, and its perpetually illuminated leg lamp advertises exactly what it is: a watering hole for blue-collar workers and neighborhood folks who congregate for budget booze and talking. Or not talking.

This morning there are three old men sitting on consecutive stools in an otherwise empty bar. They are drinking, in order: vodka neat, Stroh's poured from a bottle into a short glass mug, and a Budweiser can poured into a pint glass. Not one of them says a word.

Perched on a homemade wooden shelf is an unwieldy box TV tuned to Encore Westerns. Cheyenne — a generic cowboy and Indian flick from 1947 — is on, its whoops and hollers and gunshots the only sounds filling the air.

The trio looks like three attentive cats frozen in time at the exact moment they noticed a passing bird. Each is slouched low in his stool and leans back slightly with his head turned to the left and angled up 45 degrees toward the TV. Each moves only to swig from his drink, and even then with careful economy. It feels leisurely and earned, communal and peaceful. And then the movie ends.

As the credits roll, the man in the middle settles up and turns to leave. Before he reaches the door one of the others calls out, "See ya later, Mike."

A half-second later Mike stops and pirouettes. "Don't you fucking talk to me," he screams at the man he had just sat quietly alongside for an untold number of hours. "Don't fucking say hi to me, don't fucking say bye to me. I don't want you to talk to me at all. I thought I've made myself clear that I don't like you. Fuck you." The last two words come out louder and slower than the rest.

And with that he leaves, making sure to slam the door behind him. On the screen, the credits finish rolling: Move along, Cheyenne, the next pasture's always so green. Driftin' on, Cheyenne, don't forget the things you have seen.

"That guy ain't right," mutters the bartender before shuffling off to the backroom.

The lesson: Drama isn't just for the night crowd.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at news@clevescene.com.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club


Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.


Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.


Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

July 14, 2021

View more issues

Most Popular

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Calendar

Staff Pick Events

  • Indians vs. St. Louis Cardinals @ Progressive Field

    • Tue., July 27
  • Author Series with Alec Wightman @ Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

    • Wed., July 28
  • Indians vs. St. Louis Cardinals @ Progressive Field

    • Wed., July 28

© 2021 Cleveland Scene: 737 Bolivar Rd., Suite 4100, Cleveland, OH 44115, (216) 505-8199
Logos and trademarks on this site are property of their respective owners.


Website powered by Foundation