Grand Opening: Bat Signal Shines on New Bar in Lincoln’s Historic Haymarket | Entertainment

Mike Bretta likes bars, but he doesn’t drink. And if that sounds odd, consider that he also has an incredible collection of Hot Wheels that are still in their original packaging.

He is part businessman. And part of Peter Pan. And we should never overlook obvious self-control.

His Toys from the Past store, which showcases the toys and collectibles of our childhood, has gone a long way in filling the void left by Toys R Us, KayBee Toys and all the other toy store empires that have collapsed and burnt over the past decade.

So when his landlord approached him a few months ago and asked if he would be interested in opening a bar in the Haymarket space formerly owned by JJ Hooligans, his immediate reaction was to scoff. of the idea.

“I don’t know anything about running a bar,” he told his owner.

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In fact, he went to check out the location, which became vacant when JJ Hooligans moved from Eighth Street to the P Street location once inhabited by Old Chicago.

“It was like a cave,” he said, noting that it was dark, dreary and had all the marks of a dive bar, something he had no desire to. own.

But still, he didn’t say no.

Instead, he called friends Jason Wasser and AJ Ernst to check out the space. They agreed that its underground atmosphere was better suited to a subway or the Batcave.

And that was the impetus for Gotham Bar, the brand new nightclub in the Haymarket, which will feature live music and a Batman theme.

Bretta, with Wasser and Ernst making up the rest of the ownership group, redid the place with lots of paint, some lighting, and some art.

They’ve also created five specialty drinks — from Gotham Mist (Empress Gin, Lemon-Lime Soda, and Club Soda) to Arkham Knight (Vanilla Vodka, Root Beer, Coffee Liqueur, and Spicy Race) — with a Batman theme.

Skeptics will question the durability of a bar based on a comic book hero that has turned into a box office franchise over the past 30 years.

Bretta doesn’t care.

A bar’s endurance has less to do with its theme than with the people who inhabit it. If Batman suddenly became obsolete, he could quickly move away from it. Star Wars, maybe?

“It’s something different,” he said. “If we ever have to change brands, we can offer something different, but I think it will take some time.”

Again, it’s about the people and giving them an affordable place to congregate.

“I have a lot of friends who hang out in bars – we all do that,” he said. “I just thought it would be a cool place for people to get together, to be an affordable place in the Haymarket.

“It’s a bar for everyone. Even if you don’t like Batman, it’s still a good place to hang out.”

Bretta plans to bring live music to the Haymarket. Downtown Lincoln, a few blocks away, is full of music venues. Live music would set Gotham Bar apart from other nightclubs in Haymarket.

“We wanted to have a place where local bands can come and play,” he said, describing a scene in which a mural of the Gotham skyline is painted on the back wall.

Bretta has a Lincoln musician in the family. His brother Rich has played in various bands over the past 30 years. He’s now the lead singer of an ’80s cover band called – get it – The New Jan Bradys.

“We’ll give him a place to play if he wants to play there,” Bretta said. “…They were practicing before we opened. We had the doors open and everyone wanted to see what was going on.”

The bar had a soft opening – family and friends – in early August and is now in full swing. It’s the perfect time with the start of the Nebraska football season.

The first Saturday of operation provided a glimpse of what Bretta hopes will become the norm.

“About 90% of the people who went inside were just passing through and were curious about it,” he said. “Our first Saturday was great, and we look forward to many great Saturdays.”

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Contact the writer at 402-473-7391 or [email protected]

On Twitter @psangimino

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