Talks of two friends owning a bar usually don’t get as far as they have with Jason Horn and Jeff Harris, who have owned and operated Norty’s Bar & Grill, 1117 Frederick Ave., for the past 13 years.
The original bar opened in the early 1980s at 24th and Messanie streets. Its name was taken from a previous owner who went by the last name of Norton.
Horn and Harris would go on to purchase the shotgun tavern in 2005, but their venture originally appeared rather short-lived, as a fire burned the bar to the ground in 2007. It wasn’t long before they decided to move into their current location on Frederick.
“I don’t know that either one of us would have thought we would have owned it that long, to be honest with you, but we’re still going,” Horn says. “We thought it would be kind of fun just to have it, be able to have drinks, hang out with our friends, family and whoever else we wanted to hang out with. It just kind of snowballed from there.”
The property would expand to include a dining room and kitchen as well as the iconic deck outside, which includes a covered lower deck, speakers, HDTV and hanging lights for ambiance. All of it contributes to a laid-back sports-focused atmosphere, Horn says.
“We pretty much have sports going on as long as the lights are on, as long as we’re open,” he says. “If it’s on TV and you’re a fan, we’ll put it on for you.”
Along with having several beers on tap as well as around 40 different drinks in the cooler behind the bar, Norty’s also offers burgers, tacos, chili, chicken wings and a host of other foods that cater to all sorts of crowds.
“Throughout St. Joe, everybody basically calls us Norty’s Bar. We are Norty’s Bar & Grill,” Horn says. “We have phenomenal burgers, salads, sandwiches, wraps and one of the best reubens probably in Northwest Missouri. We’re still kind of fighting that stigma of just being a bar.”
He goes on to say that all of the food is cooked fresh, burgers are hand-pattied, and their grilled tenderloins as well as the corn beef for their reubens are made in-house.
Furthermore, one of their newest menu items is displayed prominently on a banner hanging from the deck outside.
“We thought, let’s add pizza so that everybody’s happy,” Horn says. “You know, if you’re coming down with a group of friends and somebody says, ‘Well, let’s go get pizza,’ but you feel like chicken wings, well here you go.”
Norty’s also hosts the Shamrock 5K Fun Run each year, with all of the funds going toward the Missouri Special Olympics, and the owners occasionally will have live music in the main dining area.
From a casual conversation to owning a bar on Frederick Avenue, Horn says Norty’s has become a major part of his life, and while he and his partner both work other jobs, he is happy with what they continue to accomplish.
“If I were to ever not be here, the employees are probably who I’d miss the most, to be honest with you. We’ve had a lot of people who have worked with us for a long time who are not only our employees but our friends,” he says. “Customers – there are a ton of customers who not seeing them every day or weekly would be strange.”
Norty’s is open from 11 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.