At a newly renovated Old Market bar, patrons can sidle up to the bar knowing that at least a few presidents, Elvis and the Beatles have likely had a drink there, too.
In July, Dave Haverkamp and his boyfriend, David Kerr, bought the Old Market Tavern at 10th and Jackson streets. In early September, they hosted a party for Haverkamp's birthday at the bar; when the party ended promptly at 4 p.m., they handed family members sledgehammers and other tools of destruction. The family worked until midnight, and thus began the bar's renovations.
Among the changes: taking out walls, changing the lighting and furniture, replacing the flooring and swapping the plain, modern bar for an ornate antique one that used to be in the Muehlebach Hotel in Kansas City.
Every president from Theodore Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan stayed at that hotel, according to Kerr. Elvis, the Beatles, and other icons did, too. Kerr figured it was a safe bet that at least some of them had rested their elbows on the slab of mahogany now in downtown Omaha.
“I don't know how much the presidents drank, but you know Elvis had a drink here,” Kerr said.
For the business's grand reopening on Sept. 14, Kerr and Haverkamp dropped the “Old Market” from the bar's name, calling it simply The Tavern. They had noticed that was how most of the bar's clientele referred to it anyway. They added craft beers, cocktails (they're especially fond of the Moscow Mule, a vodka and ginger beer concoction; theirs has a secret ingredient) and wine by the glass or the bottle. Kerr and Haverkamp, who both quit corporate jobs to buy The Tavern, took a bartending class in South Beach to better learn the trade.
For them, the business was a way to be together. The couple met in Las Vegas and after spending three days together, began a long distance relationship. Haverkamp lived in Omaha, Kerr in London. They explored the logistics of opening businesses in the two cities, and Omaha, with its low cost of living and Haverkamp's family, won.
They began looking to buy a bar or a restaurant and found The Old Market Tavern, at 514 S 10th St., in an old railroad hotel not far from their apartment. They loved the location and bar's historic charm — big windows, exposed brick walls. In the months since they've taken ownership, they've come to love it even more. They've gotten to know their neighbors. They've learned to divide the labor (Haverkamp handles the numbers, Kerr does the marketing and graphic design).
In a few ways, Haverkamp says it's not so different from his old job selling bank software. His favorite part of that job, he said, was meeting people, just like at The Tavern.
“There are so many worse ways I can think of to spend the day.”
The Tavern is open Monday from 5 p.m.-2 a.m. and Tuesday through Sunday from 4 p.m.-2 a.m.