Drew’s Bar and Grille on downtown Elkader’s Bridge St. is a classic American tavern. Crowded with burger lovers over the lunch hour, crowed with the “after work,” regulars most weekday evenings, and crowded with a younger crowd late into the evening on Friday and Saturday nights. Andrew, ‘Drew’ Armstrong and his mom Ann own and operate this bar business with the help of his Drew’s wife, Kara, and his sister Chelsea. All are Elkader natives and Central grads. Drew and crew have been very satisfied with the steady business they have enjoyed since they opened the bar in 2006.
Drew and Kara are ’04 graduates and were high school sweethearts. They married shortly after high school and gave birth to their first child, baby Oakley about eight weeks ago. Besides helping at the bar, Kara also works at Dollar General but seems really quite content to spend most of her time with newborn, Oakley.
In high school Drew dreamed to someday own his own sports bar. For awhile after high school he worked at the Isle of Capri before the opportunity came up for him, in 2006, to begin work on his dream by buying the bar business formerly known as The Hot Spot. The bar is located behind Pedritti’s Bakery on Bridge St. Drew rents the space for Drew’s Bar and Grille from Christopher Reimer who owns the building.
This past June, Chris informed Drew and his mom, Ann of their plans to expand the bakery into the space occupied by Drew’s. When he heard his lease was going to be terminated Drew was heart sick. His faithful following was equally upset. Many of the regulars immediately began a quiet protest as some of the older regulars recall this location has served as a tavern for more than 50 years.
Drew began to think about re-locating his bar business but as many Elkader residents realize space for this type of business is at a premium. Ann and Drew even considered buying land and building, from the ground up, a new restaurant and bar. Drew’s fate began to develop a reputation in the area to the point where a few area business owners contacted him and asked if he would be interested in buying their food and beverage business. As news spread that Drew may take his business to, as far away as Monona, his regulars moved from quite protest to flat out begging for him to keep his local tavern business local.
So, Drew began to consider a deal, what many will consider illogical, by working to buy the flooded TRAC building on lower Main St. This building suffered extensive flood damage and as many naysayers not so subtly admit nothing at the moment guarantees the next flood isn’t around the corner.
Ann Armstrong explains the thought process for moving the food beverage business down the street, “Sure it might flood like that again sometime soon or maybe it won’t flood like that again in 100 years, we have thought about it and it and this a chance we think we should take.” The group agrees it is this or nothing and this group is not satisfied with choosing nothing.
So a deal was struck and the massive rehabilitation project is underway. Drew and crew along with Drew’s brother Bill and father, Gary are working as fast as possible to move the bar to its new location at 205 S. Main St. downtown, Elkader.
This has set up as a classic bad new good news scenario. The bad news is the space that has historically housed a neighborhood bar for more than 50 years will no longer be the sight of a neighborhood bar.
The good news is a very exciting new sports bar and grille, known as Drew’s Sports Bar and Grille, is about to greet the streets of Elkader. And as Drew’s wife Kara explains, “It was time for Drew to go bigger anyway.”
The new location will be Drew Sports Bar dream come true. Plenty of flat screens and projectors will be set up for the sport’s fan to clearly see every moment of the big game. The establishment will house two bars in one. For those familiar with the current floor plan of the building this is what the Armstrong clan has planned: If one is looking from the street through the windows a typical bar similar to the one in the current Drew’s will run along the back wall in the area room that formerly held the weight lifting equipment and aerobic equipment. This area will be for the “regular,” after work crowd.
On the other side of this load bearing wall another much longer bar will be built. This bar will be for the weekend crowd and serve guests attending small receptions or weekend parties. Ann says, “One of our calling cards will be a steady calendar offering DJ’s and live music.” The area once covered by the wooden basketball court will now be set up for dances, although the basketball hoops will remain and customers will be welcome to take a shot.
In addition to plenty of new bar stools and dance floor space the new bar will also become a more developed restaurant. A new kitchen will be built in area of the men’s locker room. A dining area is planned for the location that used to house the weightlifting equipment. The crew will offer a daily lunch buffet, and plans to roll out a new home made pizza for patrons to try.
Drew also has decided to open up some windows in the backside of building in order to let in more light and to catch a glimpse of the Turkey River. The loft area in above the dining space will be converted to a lounge area.
So when can we expect to catch the next game at Drew’s the answer depends on who you ask. Drew’s sister Chelsea reports the project should be completed by late February while Drew expects to be completed in late December. The jury is out on whose view is more realistic.
In addition to be the source for another place to dine and have fun in Elkader, Drew Armstrong has also agreed to be supportive of the community’s new Elkader Fitness Cooperative project. Drew has quite generously agreed to either donate or in some cases, work out a fair deal for many of the items in the old gym. For example, he has donated the mirrors used by Denise’s Dance Studio students for the walls of the new fitness CO-OP.
Once the doors are open at the new Drew’s Sports Bar and Grille the operators plan to be open every day of the week instead of the current Sunday through Saturday schedule. “We hope to have many people in for the game on Sunday’s,” says Drew. The man of few words agrees this will be his sports bar dream come true.