There’s a glass water dispenser, off to the side, that doesn’t receive much attention. Across the room, looking on, is a taxidermied ram’s head above the crowd of half-inebriated show-goers in an area that almost requires you to squint.
It is dim and lively. The blue-red-green lights alter. A band sets up beyond the velvet curtain. Patrons linger like dank musk. A beer tips, spills onto the wooden floor next to another. Saloon doors swing open, then shut behind the bar.
Beyond those waist-high doors that have swung with regularity for the past decade, Tony Beasley, bar manager and bartender at The Jinx on Congress Street, shuffles cases of Pabst Blue Ribbon. His hair is pulled back into a tight bun and his scruffy beard is streaked with grey.
Stretching across the back of his T-shirt are the words “Velvet Elvis.” It’s a reminder of his some 12 years working in the space that once catered to The Autonomadic Bookmobile and Bindlestiff Family Circus Roadshow, a group of human oddities, and other experimental music before becoming The Jinx.
On Oct. 10, 2003, The Jinx opened its doors in the wake of what many saw as a loss to the local, eclectic artisan crowd.
During a turbulent few months in 2002 and 2003, when the owners of the Velvet Elvis faced closure by the Georgia Department of Revenue, Susanne Warnekros, a patron and friend of the owner, wanted to make sure the bar would remain alive in whatever capacity.
“Susanne was a big fan of the Velvet Elvis,” Beasley said. “That’s one of the reasons she didn’t want to have the Velvet Elvis close down, because it was her favorite bar. What better way to have your favorite bar not close down than to buy it?”
Having never run a bar and working as a body-piercing artist at Planet Three at the time, Warnekros took the risk.
“It was a huge risk and I learned a lot from my guys because they all have strong service industry backgrounds,” Warnekros said. “I couldn’t have done any of this without them.”
Beasley, who had managed the bar for two years at the Velvet Elvis, stayed on and began working the door. He’d eventually work his way back into a managerial role.
“It was weird at first. (Susanne) had a similar vision as the Velvet Elvis, but it was different. I think she’s done a great job over the years,” Beasley said between stocking cases of Pabst in the back room. “It doesn’t seem like it’s been 10 years since she opened the bar. I guess that could be a good thing, or a memory lapse thing.”
Quoting a fictitious drunk, pithy news anchorman, Beasley recalled the more than a decade he’s spent at the space.
“It’s like Ron Burgundy says, ‘I’ve been going to the same party every night for that last 12 years and that is in no way depressing,’” Beasley said. “You come to work and there’s always a different band on the weekends and you have different theme nights throughout the week. You never know who’s going to show up. It’s been a wild ride, man.”
It was comparable to living the “CBGB” life and their approach to cultivate a unique music-venue atmosphere, Beasley said of the rock biopic filmed here.
“We really do try to be really good to all the bands that come through, and that’s one of the reasons why whenever we catch them on the way up or when they get famous, a lot of them will still come back because we’re all friends,” Beasley said.
“It’s a very eclectic mix. We have everything from hillbilly honky-tonk to death metal to hip hop. Anything, as long as someone on the staff thinks it’s good.”
That eclecticism, a changing of genres each night and various bands on weekends, has helped keep The Jinx a mainstay in the downtown music scene. Following the closure of Live Wire Music Hall, it has solidified itself as one of the few places to enjoy a wide range of talent on any given night.
“From the beginning till now, I think we’ve stayed really consistent with having really good both local and regional music,” Warnekros said. “I don’t know that I’ve really seen it change in 10 years. We’ve grown a little but we’ve stayed really eclectic, which is what we always wanted to be. I didn’t want it to be one genre in that room.”
Over the past decade, the space has remained an extended living room for those who know it best. Bands have come and gone. The same applies for patrons and friends, returning when they can. On the stage during a Motley Crue tribute band fronted by Beasley, Warnekros was proposed to by her husband.
“I really just want my staff to be able to celebrate, and the customers just to appreciate that we all still have this room in this town,” Warnekros said. “It’s not just because of myself or my staff, it’s because of our customers, too. I hope it’s a celebration for everybody in that sense.”
BJ Barham of American Aquarium, a Raleigh-based Americana rock outfit, couldn’t wait for the celebration.
“The Jinx has kinda been a home for us in Savannah,” Barham said. “The bartenders, Susanne ... all those guys. They’ve been there since the beginning and they have been really good to us. And it feels like walking home. Even if we had the chance to go somewhere else, we always turn them down. We’re loyal to her.”
Looking ahead to another decade, it’s that fostered sense of home Warnekros hopes to uphold.
“I want the bar to feel open and welcoming,” she said while browsing photos from years past, culling the best into a slideshow as a tribute for the anniversary. She stops, laughs and points at a photo with shirtless men in jubilee, the walls of the newly opened Jinx bare behind them.
“You know what?” she said. “It’s not for everybody, but the people that it is for, which are most people, they love it.”