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Small bars lend charm to a night out
by AnnElise Hatjakes
Apr 29, 2010 | 863 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
<a href=>Tribune/Debra Reid</a> - Great Basin Brewing Co. brewer Ryan Quinlan checks a beer fermentation tank. The Sparks brewery recently expanded to a second Reno location.
Tribune/Debra Reid - Great Basin Brewing Co. brewer Ryan Quinlan checks a beer fermentation tank. The Sparks brewery recently expanded to a second Reno location.
If you’re in the market for a breakfast with a shot of liquor, some live blues music or a midweek bingo game, Sparks has a bar for you.

Many of the patrons who visit the Playhouse Lounge at 1746 Victorian Ave. in Sparks are veterans, to which the bar caters.

“On Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, we have a breakfast for the veterans,” Playhouse employee Paul Rasmussen said. “We serve them an SOS breakfast and a shot to go with it.

“I was also a career serviceman,” Rasmussen continued, “and we’re the only ones who do this (serve breakfast for veterans) that I know of.”

Rasmussen described the Playhouse Lounge as a kind of “neighborhood bar” with a lot of regulars that is known for its food as well as its bar.

“Every St. Patrick’s Day, we also make a corned beef hash that people can eat here or we can take out,” Rasmussen said.

The bar and grill has seen its fair share of changes in the 40 years it has been in Sparks.

“Bill and Sandy Neeld, who own it now, have owned it for more than 27 years,” Rasmussen said.

The busiest time at the Lounge is from 1 to 2 p.m. when people can come get lunch and enjoy happy hour, which features $2 drink specials.

While the Playhouse Lounge might cater to veterans, Sidelines Bar at 1237 Baring Blvd. caters to local musicians.

“I have a background in music and I grew up trying to be a rock ‘n’ roller,” Sidelines owner Dave Pennington said.

A Sparks native who graduated from Sparks High School in 1983, Pennington became the owner six months ago and plans on revamping the bar to have more performing opportunities for local musicians.

“The bar had a couple of things going on musically when I took over and I decided to introduce some additional opportunities for local musicians,” Pennington said. “We have a full stage and lights, a keyboard and drums so that musicians are really ready to just start playing when they get here.”

The bar features an open mic and an open jam night every Tuesday and Thursday, respectively. Musicians from all different genres perform at Sidelines.

“There are blues, jazz, funk and rock musicians,” Pennington said. “It really kind of runs the gamut.”

Pennington focuses the bar around the musicians who come in.

“That’s kind of my core belief — to cater to musicians,” Pennington said. “The more fun the musician has, the easier it is for everyone else to have fun.”

Mixing music with an assortment of different beers on tap, Great Basin Brewing Co. at 846 Victorian Ave. is a staple on Sparks’ main drag. Aside from the beers brewed there, Great Basin is known for its involvement in the community.

“We’re really, really big on community support in a lot of the things we do here,” co-owner Bonda Young said. “We recently threw a beach party to raise money for the CARE Chest of Sierra Nevada, which provides wheelchairs, crutches and other medical supplies for people who can’t afford them.”

Young said Great Basin every month also has a guest bartender from a nonprofit organization come in to raise funds for their particular charity.

Aside from charity events, the brewery also has regular specials like Tightwad Tuesdays when most pints are $2.50 all day long.

“We’re really busy on those days because everyone likes a deal,” Young said.

As far as Great Basin’s home-brewed beers go, one of the highlights is an annual pine nut cracking party in the fall for the harvest ale and at Christmas time, the brew masters make a holiday ale, which is sold in a commemorative bottle.

“We also make beer brittle with that holiday ale, which is pretty unique,” Young said.

Some of the beers currently on tap are the Gone to Helles German lager, Ichthyosaur India Pale Ale, Jackpot Porter and the Wild Horse ale.

As the weather warms up, the Basin also opens up its outdoor patio where there are outdoor musical performances throughout the summer.

For those looking to grab a drink while playing some slots and enjoying a more quaint atmosphere than in the larger casinos, Grampy’s Casino now has two locations in Sparks: 1125 N. McCarran Blvd. and 222 Los Altos Pkwy.

“It’s really more of a family atmosphere than you might find at other casinos,” Grampy’s employee Sherri Ostdiek said. 

Ostdiek said there are a lot of regulars who visit the casino, especially the bar on Wednesday nights, which is community bingo night from 6 to 9 p.m.

“I volunteer to work on Wednesday nights because the crowd that comes in is so much fun,” Ostdiek said. “It’s a big family in here and we usually have anywhere from 15 to 20 people who come in to play.”
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