NORTH CENTER — Now that January has decided to act like January, a Winter Survival Party this Saturday at Save More Lounge is perfectly timed to beat back the winter brrrr and blahs, all while doing a little good for charity.
And if the event introduces people to an overlooked bar and band, so much the better.
"We've got this great band, CrazeeHeart, they play here once a month. They're this old school honky tonk band that's paid their dues forever and never caught on," said Jason Ward, night shift manager of Save More Lounge and son of long-time owner Lou Lacour.
"We're trying to drum up attention for them."
The same could be said for the lounge itself.
If Save More, at 4060 N. Lincoln Ave., doesn't ring a bell, you're not alone.
"We get that all the time," said Ward, 33, who admits that a lack of signage doesn't help. "We're kind of like a neighborhood secret."
Lacour purchased Save More in 1977 but the bar's been around since the 1930s under a variety of names, according to Ward, including Ben and Harry's in the 1960s.
"If you were a woman, you couldn't sit at the bar," said Ward, adding that the prohibition has since been repealed.
Today, Save More is one of a disappearing breed — a true neighborhood bar, complete with pool table, linoleum tile and banquet-room chairs. It's the kind of joint where Miller Lite is the beer of choice and regular customers are known not by their name but bar-approved nickname.
"Some of our old customers have been drinking here since they turned 21," said Ward. "I serve some people drinks that I remember from playing in the bar as a kid. They'd give me a dollar to play the pinball machine."
"Crazy Larry" (who opted not to divulge his last name) occupies a stool at Save More four or five days a week.
"I've been coming here 20 years, maybe longer. You lose track after all these years when you're pushing 70," he said.
His routine includes picking up cigarettes at the CVS across the street and buying a pack of lottery scratch cards, which he leisurely rubs off between pulls on his Miller Genuine Draft.
"I don't go to other bars," he said. "There was a bar by me, over on Montrose, but they didn't serve my beer. It was yuppies."
The bar opens at 9 a.m. — "Whenever I tell people that, they're like 'Aw jeez,'" said Ward — largely as a hub for retirees.
"It's their socialization," said Ward. "They come to the bar and see their friends."
"I like bars like this, low key," said Monica Imhof, who tends bar during the day at Save More after logging 20 years at Margie's Pub, which closed in 2011.
Neighboring watering holes on Lincoln Avenue have become "more glamorized," she said. "I think more blue collar people come in here. They can feel comfortable in here — a ma and pa bar."
The challenge for Ward is making North Center's young professionals feel equally welcome, not by trying to compete with Wild Goose or Half Acre's tap room up the street — "This isn't a beer snob kind of bar" — but by playing to Save More's strengths.
"They're actually opening brand new bars to look like dive bars," he said, which makes Save More so uncool, it's cool again. Dollar beer specials don't hurt either.
The space itself is also uncommonly large, meaning it can easily accommodate bands or open mic nights, both of which Ward hopes to book with greater frequency.
"I would love to make this bar the bar that it could be."
Save More's Winter Survival Party is scheduled for Jan. 26, 8 p.m. The bar is asking guests to offer up their "worst X-mas gift" in lieu of a cover charge — "worst gift" meaning gently used clothing, toys or household goods, not the bedazzled backpack you got from your great aunt Agnes. The collected items will be donated to Lakeview Pantry and Care for Real in Edgewater.