First Ward re-opens with a bang

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Posted: Thursday, October 25, 2012 11:55 pm | Updated: 9:12 pm, Wed Jan 7, 2015.

Local stand-up comedians David Allison and Ryan Gerster know a little something about the bar industry in St. Joseph. For many years, the two have been moonlighting as bartenders and cooks at several pubs, dives and taverns around town.

So, when they finally bought their own bar — the newly re-opened First Ward House on St. Joseph Avenue — they immediately knew what they needed to provide to please St. Joe’s patrons: a wide variety of beer, late-night food and top-notch live music and comedy.

“We’ve worked in bars and we know what people want,” Allison says.

Allison and Gerster will get off to a pretty good start when the First Ward House hosts its Halloween Bash on Oct. 27. That day, eight local music acts will perform from noon to close at the bar.

Country artist Aaron Blumer, who recently recorded an album at a major Nashville studio, will kick off the festivities at noon. He’ll be followed by the acoustic guitar-cajon duo Shut Up and Love It, who many of you may have seen on this month as part of our St. Joe Live Jams acoustic video concert series. From there, folks can enjoy jam band rhythm guitarist Ryan Early and the eclectic stylings of young Nick Rudolph.

“He played a David Bowie song at (The Rendezvous,) but he made it his own. And it blew people away,” Allison recalls of Rudolph. “He’s good.”

After a short break, the melodic folk duo of Austin and Dansare Marks — better known as Eyelit — will perform. If you like Sublime, 311 or Slightly Stoopid, you’ll want to check out The Burnstyles. The band plays its brand of reggae rock and ska punk originals at 8:30 p.m. The young experimental blues rock trio Scruffy and the Janitors will crank up the volume before the show’s headliner, Southern stoner rock band Missouri Homegrown, brings the night to an end.

“I love Missouri Homegrown. They’re one of my favorite bands here in town,” Allison says.

But Gerster and Allison plan to extend the entertainment beyond this Saturday. Scruffy and the Janitors already has scheduled its CD release party for November at the Ward, and lots of local bands are planning on Friday and Saturday night sets at the bar. Allison says they’d like to follow the Cafe Acoustic model and bring in national music acts on a frequent basis, as well as any musicians from Kansas City and Lawrence who are interested in finding a new audience in St. Joe. And considering the co-owners are seasoned stand-up comedians, the Ward definitely will host several comedy shows as well.

In fact, Allison and Gerster would like to turn the bar’s basement — which has a bar but still needs some renovation — into a comedy club. However, they’re going to invest in a PA system and a removable stage first. Allison says they’ll have the stage built and the permanent PA system up and running by the end of November.

Allison’s biggest goal, however, is to make the First Ward House a “beer bar.” The Ward already has 32 bottled beers to choose from including several varieties from Schlafly and Young’s Chocolate Stout. That number will increase to 40 in the coming weeks and will continue to go up as time goes on.

“We have coolers full of beers to choose from,” Allison says. “They can walk right up there and see exactly what we have.”

Of course, the coup de grâce is that the First Ward House will offer food until 1 a.m. The kitchen, which serves a solid variety of sandwiches, appetizers and salads, will remain open nightly until 11 p.m. and the bar will serve tacos for those last two hours when patrons are desperately craving a greasy, delicious snack. The First Ward House is also the only bar in town that offers a rewards card. For every $100 someone spends at the Ward, they’ll receive $10 to spend at the bar.

“We’ve only been open for a couple of weeks and we’ve already had people turn their cards,” Allison says.

Yeah, these guys are definitely on to something.

For more information about the show or the First Ward House, call the bar at 273-0039.

Band schedule

  • Noon to 1:30 p.m. — Aaron Blumer
  • 1:30 to 3 p.m. — Shut Up and Love It
  • 3 to 4:30 p.m. — Ryan Early
  • 4:30 to 6 p.m. — Nick Rudolph
  • 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. — Eyelit
  • 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. — The Burnstyles
  • 9:45 to 11:30 p.m. — Scruffy and the Janitors
  • 11:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. — Missouri Homegrown

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