Harbor Inn, Cleveland,
If there is one man who can faithfully relate how wee-hour drinkslingers used to rake in the dough, it's Wally Pisorn, owner of the Harbor Inn on the west bank of the Flats. The grandfatherly Slovenian bought Cleveland's oldest bar in 1969, manning it straight through the heyday of Great Lakes shipping and the Forest City's booming steel industry, back when tired butts filled every stool within 20 miles of the Cuyahoga for an after-work nip.
He would open at 7 a.m., pouring cheap whiskey straight through lunch. Now he opens at 9. No reason to go earlier. Ten years ago, the morning crews stopped coming.
"There used to be 60 big ships that came through here," he says, his face forever looking a bit like Dopey, his hair still coal-black. "Now, I think there's six."
He has a couple regulars — guys who clean fish overnight — but besides them, business is slow at the start of the workday.
Not even the Harbor Inn can draw the breakfast crowd. And Wally knows why.
"You can't drink before work anymore," he says. "Used to be, guys would come in and have two shots before they go to work. You can't do that anymore, you know?"
Unless, of course, you're writing an article about it.
The lesson: You'd do well to learn a little history. And when it comes to Cleveland, there's no better teacher than Wally.