Rum-running historically means smuggling or transporting alcohol, or rum, over water (bootlegging being the land-based version). So I’m smuggling a scoop to you this week: One of downtown’s classic bars has returned. Yes, Rumrunner’s Old Towne Bar & Grill (415 E St., www.rumrunnersak.com)is back, with a grand opening celebration this weekend.
Memories of Rumrunner’s might include, for some, the thump of hip-hop vibrating beneath the dance floor, long lines both to get in and get a drink, strong cocktails mixed by bartenders who did tricks for tips and an incredibly difficult journey to the bathrooms. These memories may be smile-inspiring for some and anger-inducing for others. Either way, this bar is ready for a whole new set of recollections.
Owner and manager Mike Shomer wanted to emphasize “new” in every aspect of the bar — new owners, new management and a new game plan. There’s even a new menu featuring a variety of edibles from appetizers, salads and soups to burgers and seafood. Past forays to Rumrunner’s for munchies proved a gamble best avoided unless you were really, really hungry. But with a shiny kitchen, busy staff and a spiffed-up table service, the new menu may have other downtown eateries shivering their timbers.
Some things will appear familiar — DJ music will pump Thursday through Saturday nights (featuring M&M Productions and DJ James), keeping the dance club vibe we knew and loved. But Shomer also hopes for musicians to liven up the stage with blues and jazz during the week.
The most obvious addition involves an extra 1,200 feet of bar room. Shomer opened a space behind the existing venue and converted it into a fancy, black-lit, neon-spattered VIP den called The Black Pearl (note the pirate reference).
This addition provides more seating, easier access to the bathrooms that doesn’t require wading through gyrating grabby-hands on the dance floor, as well as its own martini and mojito bar. (Finally, a place where the bartender won’t give you the stink eye when you order a drink that requires time-consuming mint-muddling.)
Still, the spirit of the previous Rumrunner’s — and by that I mean the booty-shaking, sweaty-forehead, gussied-up-for-the-opposite-sex, Jager Bomb spirit — lives on. Shomer hopes to bring in big musical acts and plan parties and soirees around local events. He also hopes patrons will remember, “this is not the old Rumrunner’s.” And it’s not. It’s a shinier, cleaner, glossier version that may prove more successful this time around.
The opening party starts at 10 p.m. Saturday and features a live feed from 94.7 KZND “The End” FM, the Miller Girls, prizes, music by DJ James and more. The cover is $5, and I suggest going early. Your friends might scoff when you suggest going to a place that was previously closed, but I guarantee it’s a secret that won’t be smuggled for long.