Grammer's Embraces Historical Significance

Persevering with innovative events and free popcorn

Where in Greater Cincinnati can you find a beer festival one week, indoor bike races the next, weekly wiffleball games and flamboyant, sweaty dance parties in honor of Queen’s Freddie Mercury all in one place? Why, Grammer’s bar of course.

These are just a few events that illustrate the spontaneous nature Grammer’s has adopted since a fire last September destroyed part of the property and plans for reopening the kitchen were scrapped. Confronted with such a turn of luck, Grammer’s has embraced what it does have: an unscathed main bar area, including a leaded glass entryway from Germany and the original mirrored bar.

Add to that the recently opened beer garden and the bar’s newfound classy-sexy-cool clientele, and you’ve got a historical bar that retains the character of its time while hosting some of the coolest events and parties in town.

But we didn’t have to tell you that. We already mentioned the Freddie Mercury dance party. And guess what? That party is happening again this year on Mr. Mercury’s birthday (Sept. 5). We talked with Shannon Yoho, the bohemian behind the rhapsody that is Freddie Mercury’s birthday bash, to find out more about it.

Yoho says she fell in love with Freddie Mercury and Rock & Roll during a family road trip after her cousin let her listen to the Wayne’s World soundtrack on her Walkman. (Yes, it was a long time ago.)

“ ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ came on, and my world was forever changed,” Yoho says. “I’ve been in love with that flamboyant man and Rock & Roll ever since.”

That love inspired Yoho to put on the first birthday bash last year, which featured all the Lycra and glitter you’d expect, as well as homemade mustache cookies (which might be provided again this year).

“I wanted more reasons for Cincinnati, mainly myself, to be able to go out in shiny jumpsuits and glitter,” Yoho says, “and be able to sweat profusely to Queen songs as well as a bunch of other Glam Rock favorites.”

You might be wondering why the word “sweat” keeps coming up. Yoho explains: “(Grammer’s) didn’t have A/C at the time, and it was unbelievably hot. Men were ripping off their jumpsuits and the ladies were getting down to their bras.”

Also last year, AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati provided information on getting involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS (Mercury died of health complications due to AIDS) and, according to Yoho, “a ton of condoms and lube that ended up all over the place.”

Yoho says this year we can expect dancing, elaborate costumes and makeup, a costume contest, a ridiculous live performance, an excess of champagne and a hangover in the morning.

If you haven’t been to Grammer’s, you’ve also missed out on Cincinnati Goldsprints, where contestants race head-to-head on stationary road bikes hooked up to computers that monitor your speed, appearances by the Cincinnati Roller Girls, movie nights, the bar’s contribution to Bock Fest and many a dance party. But how do you find out what’s going down at Grammer’s on any given night?

Sometimes it seems that the first rule of Grammer’s is “Don’t talk about Grammer’s” ... unless it’s on Facebook. The Grammer’s Web site and Facebook page both lack a functioning event calendar as of the time of this writing, but occasionally Grammer’s will update its Facebook status to let you know what’s happening in the next couple days or the next couple hours.

Some recurring events have their own Facebook pages, such as Cincinnati Goldsprints and the weekly Wiffleball Wednesdays. Bar patrons Mike Tackett and Amanda Angelo created the Wiffleball Wednesdays page that has accumulated about 60 friends. Anywhere from 15 to 20 players will show up to play a friendly game next to the Grammer’s parking lot on otherwise calm Wednesday nights.

A first for Grammer’s this year, the bar will participate as a venue during Midpoint Music Festival Sept. 24-26 for a weekend that is sure to impress. Most notably, the Topic Design tent there will host another return of Heartless Bastards Sept. 25 with The Lions Rampant and The Wildbirds. Thursday night brings you Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, The Elms and Cash Flagg. Saturday night you'll be able to catch Chairlift, Micachu and the Shapes and Eat Sugar.

The hard work that went into making Grammer’s a quick success could be compared to the infamous tagline from the movie Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.”

But in the case of Grammer’s, a more fitting line might be: “If the kitchen burns down, serve free popcorn and they will come.”

GRAMMER’S (1140 Walnut St. in Over-the-Rhine) hosts a Freddie Mercury birthday bash Sept. 5 as well as the ongoing Wiffleball Wednesdays. The long-standing historical space will also be a venue at the MidPoint Music Festival Sept. 24-26.

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