November 22, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Forget about Ladies Night. Cohen & Kelly’s Lounge promotes ladies’ day each Tuesday.

“There’s not a specific time,” says co-owner Cindy Vance, adding with a laugh: “Actually, the whole day is ladies’ day.”

That’s not the only perk at C & K’s. Drink prices are fair any day of the week, but C & K’s hosts happy hour on Tuesday and Wednesday, and they also host a men’s night on Mondays.

Vance began working at Cohen & Kelly’s Lounge when she was 20 years old. She assumed ownership (with husband Frank) 10 years later. The couple, who also own The Dubliner in the Old Market, have owned C & K’s for nearly three decades.

Cindy, specifically, has made a point to maintain a casual but appealing “neighborhood bar” environment for the cozy lounge that’s long been a mainstay in the retail plaza at the southeast quadrant of 132nd Street and West Center Road. at also means creating an atmosphere where female patrons feel as much at home as any of the men who frequent C & K’s.

“I try to make all women who come in here feel comfortable,” Vance says. “I try to make everyone in here feel comfortable.”

The lounge hosts many women customers, and the employee team is mostly women. Servers and bartenders are held to high standards of making customers feel welcome while serving them efficiently, so Vance is personally involved in hiring every member of C & K’s team.

Patrons from 30 years ago, or even from the lounge’s late ’70s beginnings, would readily recognize C & K’s today, Vance says. The biggest change came after the Nebraska Clean Indoor Air Act of 2008 required indoor workplaces in Nebraska to be smoke-free as of mid-2009. “There was a huge resistance at first. But now everything looks brighter, and it’s so much easier to keep clean,” she says.

A variety of seating options accommodate couples, small groups who want to focus on conversation, larger parties who want to make an occasion of it, and even solo patrons looking for some friendly company.

“I like how you can carry a conversation across the bar and see everybody,” Vance says.

While in many neighborhood bars regulars become the bartenders’ friends, Vance says regulars here become like family, even contributing to potlucks during popular televised sporting events. Those include all of the televised Nebraska football games, all Creighton basketball games, and the College World Series along with NASCAR, dirt racing, and hockey. And if someone gets tired of their own family during the holidays, they can join the C & K family—the lounge hosts regular special holiday celebrations; it is open every day of the year.

Keeping her employees happy is important, she says, and although the dominate-female team already gets along well, Vance encourages camaraderie through occasional fun outings that allow the team to bond outside the on-the-job pressures of their busy bar. Vance and her staff in turn provide unfailingly great service, she says, that encourages patrons to come back again and again.

“We like knowing our customers by name,” she says.

Because of these factors, Vance says she doesn’t feel at all out of place as a female in an industry that’s still heavily dominated by men. “It’s actually more uncommon for any bar to make it as long in one location as we have,” she says.

Visit cksloungeomaha.com for more information.

This article appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of B2B.