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February 6, 2004

From the 21+ side of the ID divide

Last Saturday, after making a brief appearance at Fiji's Rock Stars and Groupies (come on—who doesn't want cheap alcohol), I found myself heading up to Weed Street with my friend Meghan at 1 a.m. Despite the numerous bars and clubs dotting that awesome North Side street, our destination of choice was Joe's.

Officially, it is Joe's Bar—not Sports Bar—so don't let the basketball logo fool you. I've liked Joe's ever since I paid my first visit during senior week last year. I only saw the front bar area (which is normally pretty tame, compared to the other areas of the place), but I liked it immediately because of the relaxed atmosphere. There were TVs everywhere (as any sports bar would have it), unpretentious decorations, and fishbowl drinks (a house specialty.) It reminded me of a place in Coconut Grove, Miami, so I knew I'd be coming back.

On my subsequent trips, I explored the rest of the place. I got a different flavor not only by moving between rooms, but also by going on different nights. There is another bar in the back, separating the ample space into two different rooms—one huge, one small. The larger room has a stage, a large dance floor, a private party area overlooking the dance floor, and another bar lining the side of the room. The smaller room is more intimate and cozy, peppered with TVs and tables. On regular nights, waitresses float around the tables and promptly serve drinks. However, the service can be sub-par on busier nights.

No night is typical at Joe's. Last Saturday, the big room felt like a frat party for grown-ups. Many drunken 20-somethings were dancing the night away to a random selection of music (Nelly, AC/DC, disco hits, etc.) while drinking from plastic cups. The front room, on the other hand, was pretty quiet and low-key. Many people clustered around the bar, while others stayed at booths or tables. Other times when I've gone, the scene has been completely different.

The front room can get pretty rowdy—especially if a big game is on—but the back room is where most of the change occurs. Joe's hosts a variety of guests to open for Hairbangers Ball, the ever-popular '80s cover band.

People flock to Joe's when Hairbangers Ball plays, and the crowd literally stands elbow to elbow. Events like this are usually more diverse than the adult frat party scenes mentioned above.

Joe's can be hit-or-miss, but it really has something to offer everyone, so I suggest you test it out. If you want to guarantee a good time, try to go to one of the promotional nights with band or drink deals. Joe's offers a bunch of regular events, such as $1 bottle Tuesdays and Country Fridays. Usual services include a coat check and valet parking. You can order food early in the night (including Joe's "Famous" Pizza), and there is no cover charge. If a special group is performing, you must pay to gain entrance into the back room, but the charge is usually no more than $10.

To see a listing of the promotions and events, visit the website, *www.joesbar.com":http://www.joesbar.com.