Is drinking at Brothers a good deal? It's all relative

Sometime around my junior or senior year of college — the details are hazy, as they should be — I began blacking out on Wednesdays. Every Wednesday, for years. That's because a few friends got bartending and kitchen jobs at a massive bar/club in downtown Iowa City, which meant the rest of us drank one-dollar (employee price) beers and free shots, always. Wednesday nights at this bar were called Wing Ding Wednesdays, because hot wings were ten cents apiece until they ran out. So there we'd sit, bellied up, drinking one-dollar Budweisers or one-dollar Guinness-and-ciders and round after ridiculous round of free well shots while smearing buffalo sauce across our fingers and faces.

None of us especially cared for the place — it regularly had fifty-person-plus lines wrapping around the corner and down the pedestrian mall, played lousy music and attracted the types of guys looking to date-rape the types of girls who'd walk from a mile away in the dead of winter in skirts and heels with no coats. But it was so damn cheap, and we were essentially VIPs. So there we'd sit until we blacked out, Wednesday after Wacky Wednesday (our eventual nickname for these weekly exploits).

A sibling of that bar, It's Brothers Bar & Grill, now has a home in the former The Real World: Denver house at 1920 Market Street. (There are sixteen other locations spread across nine Midwestern states.) It also has a motion pending in U.S. District Court, where it's asked to be given the right to use the Brothers name despite the fact that My Brother's Bar, 1.2 miles away at 2376 15th Street, trademarked the Brother's name in Colorado more than thirty years ago.

According to my server at It's Brothers, who's been in the industry for years, the "best people she's ever worked for" aren't worried — or at least aren't letting on that they are. On only its second Wednesday in business — while delivering and pouring me half-priced pitchers from 4 to 8 p.m. — she tells me that the Denver location has re-embraced the "It's" in "It's Brothers" even though all the other locations phased it out. The owners had to reorder every sign, menu and uniform, but they're hoping that switch will smooth things over and let them get about their business. After all, after seconding the "over the top" party approach touted by the brothers who own It's Brothers, she points out that "We'd rather have a packed bar of people drinking half price than an empty bar drinking full price."

I like that logic. We take full advantage of these specials for the better part of five hours. From 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., we drink $6.50 pitchers of Budweiser, Shiner Hefeweizen, Stella Artois and Shiner Bock. We eat beer-battered cheese curds, tortilla chips with queso and other appetizers. At 8 p.m., an off-duty manager finds us a World Cup replay on ESPN Classic, and our new bartender at the patio bar puts our half-full pitchers in the ice tubs so they don't get flaccid. All around us, while I chain-smoke in the pleasant company of other smokers, the roomy, oak-toned bar steadily fills up both inside and out, the areas seamlessly connected to one another via garage doors.

Tonight is It's Brothers' first attempt at the ten-cent wing special, and no one on staff seems sure of how it works or how it's gonna go. But I remember. At 9 p.m. exactly, we each order ten (the minimum) of the Buffalo-flavored and fifty-cent sidecars of ranch or bleu cheese. An hour later, with thirty wings and twelve $1.50 High Life bottles (also on late-night special) long gone, the three of us each order another round of wings, this time expanding into the Spicy Garlic and Honey BBQ flavors. We're too drunk and sticky and satisfied to really comprehend what's happening in the soccer game, but one thing is perfectly clear:

My Brother's Bar could never have transported me back to the punch-drunk nostalgia of my youth like It's Brothers does.

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Drew Bixby