On Friday afternoon, and after almost 10 years of dormancy, the Flat Iron opens its doors on the north end of downtown Greensboro. And lo and behold! There’s my old friend Dustin Keene behind the bar.
This one’s got “conflict of interest” written all over it. Dusty’s one of my oldest and closest friends, and we’ve been talking about the Flat Iron project for months now. As the owner of Common Grounds coffeeshop on Elam Street, he’s also an advertiser, which puts him on the no-no list when it comes to gratuitous coverage.
And to top it all off, I don’t even drink — not anymore, anyway. But when I did the Flat was an integral part of my circuit, one of those rare joints appropriate for afternoon cocktails or the last stop of the night. It was never anything fancy, and it still isn’t, and maybe that’s what was so great about it: a pool table, a three-sided bar, a small stage and enough space to work the room.
In the age of microbreweries, pocket distillery tastings, craft cocktails and bottle shops, the notion of the Flat Iron seems almost quaint.
Now Dusty’s nearly bouncing off the walls. A few well-timed social-media posts have alerted the dive bar-going public, and they’re starting to trickle in. David the lawyer. Bucky from the Corner. Milton Kern. The thread is starting to grow as word spreads.
Dusty’s teamed up with Randy Seals from On Pop of the World to make this place happen.
They’ve laid on a coat of paint, hung a chandelier over the stage and cut the old bar into pieces to make sound bafflers for the long wall. And now they lay in wait, to see if anyone remembers.
For years, the Flat was downtown Greensboro’s only dive bar worthy of the title. The Sofa Bar was a little too cozy, the Rhino Club a touch too fancy. There was Ritchy’s, but Jesus those stairs, and Twiggy’s if you had the grit for it. But the Flat was always the downtown destination for the discerning drinker who wasn’t afraid to lose a few forearm hairs on a sticky bartop.
Tonight, after I leave, a band from Cleveland called Racket Man will christen the Flat Iron stage after their gig gets cancelled. Tomorrow it will hold the Dune Sea and Manly Kubrick, a couple bands that formed from Weaver High.
In the days that follow, as the regulars return and the newcomers discover its charms, the Flat reclaims its place.