The historic bar, est. in 1933, continues to be relevant
The Brass Rail: an Oakland neighborhood bar that has been going strong for over 80 years, is decorated with good ‘ol boys from Santa Fe, Goodyear, Hills and more. The bar prospered for years as a 3.2 beer pub, catering to the blue-collar worker and graveyard shifter. That is, until two years ago when two business savvy and passionate women decided to jump shark on their own entrepreneur goals and purchase the bar.
“I was bartending part-time at “The Rail” when Rob, my childhood friend and owner, announced that he wanted to sell the bar,” said co-owner Tammi Lopez. “It was always my dream to own a bar, even back in college.” Tammi graduated from Emporia State with a degree in marketing and business. She immediately shared the news with her partner Christine Lopez, who began to see the potential in the business venture, despite the fact that the two were already preparing to start their own business, one of flipping houses.
In fact, when the opportunity to purchase The Brass Rail presented itself, they couple were far along in their house flipping business; they had a business plan, funding saved and were in negotiations to purchase their first property in April of 2013. All of which changed in an instance when Rob announced the sale.
Today the couple has no regrets. Their biggest success and advice to others is to “believe in your dreams and just go for it.” The also pay credit to their supportive family.
The Brass Rails’ bricks and mortar, according to land records, was originally a dairy, then a grocery store and finally a bar after Prohibition. The address is 401 N.E. Emmett, due to the original door be located off the south side of bar. Today the front entrance faces Seward Ave.
When the couple took ownership, diversity and acceptance was an underlying goal, as was changing the bar from a 3.2 beer bar to a liquor establishment, all in hopes to attract a profitable night-time clientele. The second goal was as simple as acquiring licenses and changing marketing messages. The first was not as easy, however, due to their sexual orientation. “Some regulars expressed fears that “their Rail” might turn into a gay bar, or simply not be the same place they had been enjoying a cold one at for the past 50 years.”
Christine and Tammi were married via a civil union five years prior to purchasing The Rail. And even though they had been patrons of the establishment, to the extent of slinging beers behind the beautiful, history-rich wooden bar, there was still some adversity to overcome.
“This is everybody’s bar,” is there motto. “Everyone is welcome.” With consistency of this message and a no-tolerance policy, Tammi and Christine saw their dream come to life.
“We stayed strong in the fact that we wouldn’t accept any type of negative language,” said Christine. “If you can’t stand the person sitting next to you, then get up or get out,” added Tammi. The hard line was drawn and today the Cheers-like bar is one enjoyed by multi-generations, cultures and drinkers.
The Brass Rail is open from 2p to midnight Sunday – Thursday and open ‘til 2a Friday and Saturday. It hosts trivia nights on Tuesday, a dj every Friday and Saturday and karaoke on Thursday. The owners take pride in having an uber-clean bar and bathrooms, which make some retract preconceived notions of the “dive” bar.
More exciting is that the ladies are continuing to grow The Brass Rail as they are building a small kitchen and adding an extended menu slated to debut this Spring. The menu pays homage to the neighborhood with dishes derived from German, Mexican and American cuisine – some recipes even being contributed by long-standing patrons. “Our focus is on bright, flavorful, affordable food,” said Tammi, who will take the lead on the kitchen and menu expansion. “Our bar food will encompass all the cultures of the area.”
Tammi and Christine and a great example of two Top City Ladies rockin’ local business. They have taken the traditional and made it relevant for today’s culturally diverse consumer. It’s hard to enter The Brass Rail and not feel the love and passion the owners have for their patrons, staff and the bar’s history. And it’s hard for us to not applaud and thank them.