Calhoun's Sports Bar opened in the South Main Historic Arts District on New Year's Eve. There was no official announcement, but neighborhood patrons required no notice. The doors opened around 7 p.m., and the pint-sized pub filled up quickly with South Main residents stopping in before the night's festivities. Everyone was excited by the much-anticipated opening, but most excited of all had to be the bar's 24-year-old owner, Max Lawhon.
It had been a long, drawn-out process involving permits and building codes to get the bar ready for business, and when Calhoun's finally opened, plywood was still covering part of the bar. The ready-made regulars started tagging the makeshift bar top with markers and giving their two-cents' worth on the place.
"I'm really pleased with the response," says Lawhon, who plans on making the graffiti-covered plywood a permanent work of art. "Everybody wants to be Norm," he says, referring to the Cheers character. "They've given me some good ideas. It's great how everyone wants to be part of it."
Calhoun's, which is located on G.E. Patterson, is named after the street's original name. The cozy space is simple but surprisingly refined, with sports mementos and five flat-screen, hi-def televisions.
Lawhon's background is a corporate one spent behind a desk instead of a bar, but he always wanted to work for himself. He has degrees in entrepreneurship and human resources from the University of Arkansas.
"When it comes to taking the risk," he says, "my classes helped prepare me by constantly discouraging me to start a business. They taught the harsh reality of being an entrepreneur, and it is a scary one."
Lawhon, who works with a silent partner, saw a niche in the South Main neighborhood. "After studying the market," he says, "I found the demographic to be one that chose the downtown lifestyle, that likes the nightlife."
A downtowner himself, Lawhon first learned of the space from his sister, who owns Delphinium, an accessories boutique also on G.E. Patterson. "I always wanted to have my own bar," he explains. "A sports bar was a natural, easy route, but I also wanted to create an atmosphere that's personal and unexpected."
While Lawhon emphasizes that Calhoun's is a neighborhood joint as much as a sports bar, there's a game on every day, if not every hour. The bar subscribes to ESPN Full Court and tries to broadcast all Tiger basketball games.
Calhoun's is open Monday through Friday from 4:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. It offers happy-hour specials during the week and quintessential bar food, such as hot-and-spicy drummies.
In addition to bottled beer, look for Guinness, Presidential IPA, Stella Artois, PBR, Blue Moon, and all the old standbys on tap. If beer isn't your bag, you can bring liquor (for $3 setups) or wine (with a $15 corkage fee). Calhoun's also has something the ladies can appreciate: hooks under the bar to hang their purses.
One South Main resident offers an early review: "It's like going to a house party," she says. "You may not know everyone when you get there, but you will by the time you leave." Calhoun's Sports Bar, 115 G.E. Patterson (528-8600)