Sports Bar Lite

The first time we ventured into the new Plaza outpost of the 810 Zone we were on a mission. We were searching for the crush of a research assistant, whom we’ll call Kate. The crush had told Kate that he had plans and couldn’t go out. But a source told us that he was watching KU’s Sweet Sixteen tournament game at 810. Ah, how the Night Ranger loves bar surveillance.

Sadly, the line snaking out the door put a minor kink in our plans. As we waited for the game clock to tick down, we amused ourselves by watching a blonde in a strapless Kelly-green minidress, which she’d paired with red heels and a red purse. Christmas Barbie’s busty charms failed to sway the door guy to let her in to meet her friends. Periodically, her fellow sororobots made sad, pouty faces at her from inside.

After KU’s victory, the door policy was one-in, one-out. Once in, we were a bit overwhelmed by the room’s stimulus overload. A massive screen graced one wall, and smaller plasma TVs dotted every available surface within eyeball view. Booths had their own miniscreens, and upstairs, a private room designed to look like a skybox lorded over the cavernous place. Local athletic memorabilia also made up the typical-sports-bar décor. But we were generally impressed with what 810 had done to the multilevel space, and we drooled over the game-watching possibilities.

However, we were more intrigued by the back of the second floor, which we think was the electronics department when the space used to house Macy’s in the ’80s. We’d spent quite a bit of time watching TV while Night Ranger Mom shopped. The area was now a lite version of ESPN Zone. It contained two pool tables, a claw machine, Pop-a-Shot, an array of racing video games, and the bar’s crown jewel: a full-sized virtual-golf-swing deal.

During our tour of the place, the crush was nowhere to be found. After a few text flurries, we heard that he might be at the Granfalloon. We were already in full stalker mode, so we traipsed across the Plaza. Long story short, he wasn’t there ,either, and we now think the source made all this shit up. Anyway, 3-inch heels are not conducive to a goose chase, so we ended up drinking at the less-packed ‘falloon. As we hoisted our Boulevard Wheats, we wondered what the Dave & Buster’s-added appeal of 810 Zone would do to Granfalloon and George Brett’s.

To find out, we went back again to 810 late on a Friday night a few weeks later with RAs John and Lexie. Weirdly enough, we were assigned another mission. Kate wanted us to go upstairs to the bar so she had an excuse to talk to a cute guy who had caught her eye. Plus, she was fending off the advances of a late-30s Single Corporate Dude, who had racked up a nearly $200 bill with his married-but-the-wife’s-out-of-town wingman. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived, her luv object had left.

Because no game was on — except for the Royals, buh-duh-bump! — the place was surprisingly uncrowded. Groups of women in varying fake-bake shades of orange mingled with duders in their prep-hole best. We ordered Boulevard Wheats and noted 810’s 16 beers on tap, including Stella and Shiner Bock. We easily snagged a table on the upper level. From our perch, we couldn’t help but hear a snippet of conversation that floated up from a table on the lower level: “So, then, on our wedding night,” began a woman to her group of friends.

We wended our way downstairs to get the salacious details and met 28-year-old Stacy, who was hanging out with her husband, 33-year-old Andy, and others. Their Lake Winnebago wedding turned into a hookupfest. According to Stacy, they had a groomsman whom everyone was asking about. He ended up hooking up with a bridesmaid. The next night, he ended up with another. “Everyone was hooking up with everyone,” Andy said. “When we got back, it was like, ‘What the hell happened?’ It was nutty.” That was six years ago. As Stacy put it, though, “In today’s terms, that’s like 35 years.”

Meanwhile, another potential relationship-building exercise was going on back upstairs. We spotted two blond women walk in and sit down. Then we saw two guys — who were previously sitting with another group of women — approach and sit down. We interrupted their conversation and met 29-year-old Kimberley and 33-year-old Terrill. They immediately lauded the low-key factor of the place. Kimberley added that she usually avoids Plaza bars because she gets snotty looks from other women.

Terrill, who deemed the Plaza crowd more grown-up and professional, shared an anecdote from a night at O’Dowd’s. A woman told him that he looked like Seal, which he didn’t take too badly. She explained that she works with depressed kids. Then she started bawling. Terrill had just returned from overseas, where, he said, he “saw stuff.” He’d heard enough crying. “Yes, I am Seal,” he said, cutting off her tears. “Here’s my assistant. He’ll take care of it.” He got up and left, and she ended up talking with the “assistant” for half an hour.

As we gulped down our drink, two women came over and wanted to bum a smoke. Shana, a 35-year-old, curly-haired brunette, dates Jennifer’s brother, who, at that moment, was trying to perform some sort of magic trick. All we heard from his table: “Hold it in your hand! It’s a big hand!” The guy had put his Blockbuster card between two shot glasses. One contained water and the other whiskey, and once he removed the card, the two liquids were supposed to switch places because water weighs more than whiskey. The trick resulted in a puddle of liquid on the table.

By that time, the majority of the crowd had disappeared. Through our reconnaissance work, we discovered the prevalent statistics needed at 810: the assist and the forward pass. Scoring is optional.

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