Tag Archives: Old Dundee Bar & Grill

Rachel Jacobson

December 28, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Before former Dundee Theater owner Denny Moran decided to sell the iconic Dodge Street structure, before the Sherwood Foundation purchased it, and before Film Streams was chosen to keep it alive, Rachel Jacobson had thought about how adding another screen or two would help the art house better meet the needs of its public.

Responses from Film Streams’ annual survey indicated moviegoers wanted the nonprofit to hold films longer, and also bring more foreign films and documentaries to Omaha.

“We couldn’t address both of those issues without having additional screens,” says Jacobson, Film Streams founder and executive director. “So we felt like we needed a third and potentially fourth screen to do this.”

Jacobson had thought about it. She had researched it. Board members had articulated the need for additional screens in a 2013 strategic plan. They had even mused over the thought of the Dundee Theater located at 50th and Dodge streets becoming that additional screen. But not until Moran articulated his decision to sell in fall of 2015 did that possibility become real.

“I felt like it would be our responsibility to run it,” Jacobson says. “We had built an organization and institution that would make it possible for us to operate it. We had relationships with distributors, a donor base, and a member base. Everyone in the community told us, ‘you guys are the ones.’”
This year, the year of Film Streams 10th anniversary, it has become evident to everyone that they are indeed ‘the ones.’

dundeetheater1The Sherwood Foundation, which has had ownership of the theater and surrounding properties since early 2016, will transfer the theater and Old Dundee Bar to Film Streams as soon as the renovations begin, which Jacobson hopes will be as early as late January or early February of 2017. Meanwhile, the nonprofit is working with Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture on the design, interviewing contractors, and is in the midst of a private, multi-million dollar capital campaign with major donors to raise support for the renovations. If all goes according to plan, the new Film Streams at the Dundee Theater will open later this year.

“Alexander [Payne] has a new movie coming out in fall of [2017], and we would love to open it in conjunction with that,” says Jacobson.

The renovated Dundee Theater and everything it will offer will not replace anything that Film Streams is doing at the Ruth Sokolof Theater downtown. Rather, it will complement and expand upon everything the organization is doing, in an effort to further its mission.

It’s merely a sequel to everything Jacobson and the Film Streams staff, supporters, and board members have accomplished so far.

In its first 10 years, Jacobson says the Ruth Sokolof Theater has welcomed more than 500,000 visitors, including an average of 5,000 students per year to its educational programs. Its budget has grown from $890,000 when the organization opened in 2007 to $1.9 million in 2017 (with an estimated $2.4 million budget for 2018 when the Dundee will have been open for a full year). The administrative staff doubled in 2016 to nine full-time staff members and two part-time staff members in anticipation of additional operating and educational responsibilities.

The numbers speak for themselves, but it’s not just about the numbers, says Jacobson. What she’s the most proud of is not necessarily one specific event over the past 10 years but the collective experiences the organization has provided for Omahans.

She is proud of the First-Run Films program, which offers American independents, documentaries, and foreign films making their theatrical premieres in Omaha and the surrounding region, for the diversity of voices it has brought to the city. “This program is so important to our mission because film is such a great window into other people’s experiences,” Jacobson says.

She is proud of the classic films the organization has brought to the big screen because of the special experiences it has offered to families, children, and local “cinephiles.” And she is especially proud of the organization’s community development program, which involves working collaboratively with other local nonprofits to bring in national or international films followed by a discussion led by leaders from the partnering nonprofits.

“We talk to people in Omaha who are working on these issues, allowing people to walk away with knowledge of their own community beyond what they’ve learned from the film itself,” Jacobson says.
The past 10 years have not been completely without challenges. The College World Series was one Film Streams didn’t see coming when it established itself as a 365-day operation. The organization quickly found out one wants to be indoors during that time, and regular patrons don’t want to deal with the crowded parking. So now, Film Streams closes for at least a week during the annual event. And while the organization has very faithful donors, busy schedules and family activities sometimes prevent even the most dedicated patrons from seeing a movie in the theater as often as they would like.

Jacobson is hoping the location of the Dundee Theater will help with some of that, especially for people who live a little farther west. Renovations are also designed to make the Dundee more of a community gathering place, with a book store, café, and event space designed to coax people out of the house even if they aren’t coming for a movie.

And the theater itself—which will include a main screen with about 300 seats and a 25-seat micro theater—will enhance what Film Streams is already doing, allowing the organization to bring at least “50 percent more” titles to the area, building on the 180 titles per year the nonprofit averages now.
The end goal is to create more unique experiences around film and influence more and more people in our city to make time to go to the movies.

“I just want to see more and more people know who we are, care about us, and care about film as a result of us,” Jacobson says. “I just want us to continue to be a vibrant and important part of the cultural life of our city.”

Visit filmstreams.org for more information.

*Correction: Errors in the spelling of Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture and Film Stream’s budget growth figures have been corrected from the January/February 2017 print edition.

A Taste of Old Times and Reuben Tacos in Old Dundee

October 15, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When I first started coming into the cavernous Old Dundee Bar & Grill, the eatery and I were both much smaller. The eastern portion—the part accessible from the back entrance off of Capital Avenue—was called Main Street Movies, a movie rental place walled-off from the bar area.

My dad used to walk my sister and me there to rent VHS tapes, any movie we wanted for $2.50.  I remember the smell of popcorn from the Dundee Theatre at the top of the ramp in the southeast corner, the `70s-style pattern in the worn carpet. I remember the smell of fried fish coming from the Dundee Dell.

olddundee2Established in 1934, the year after Prohibition, the Dundee Dell went through various owners. A former owner of the Dundee Dell, Pat Goebel, relocated the bar to Underwood Avenue in 2000. So, the bar that next occupied the old Dodge Street location needed a different name. The new name held onto nostalgia for the space. Affectionately known as “The Old” or “ODBG,” it has been owned by Bellevue native Joe Goodman since 2009.

Goodman says that the old bar and the building surrounding it—including the shuttered Dundee Theatre, a bridal store, Merle Norman Cosmetics, and an antiques store—were built in the 1920s and operated as a speakeasy during Prohibition.

Goodman’s ODBG is known for its specials, expert staff, and reasonable food prices, as well as its deep-fried flour tacos, including the Reuben taco (which isn’t listed on the menu). It’s made of a deep-fried flour shell, Swiss cheese, corned beef, Thousand Island dressing, and of course, sauerkraut. They’re huge, so I only eat one. For the Wednesday night special, the price of the beef tacos drops to $2. The others stay at the usual $2.25.

I’ve never eaten a Reuben—I normally hate sauerkraut. But the combination of the meat, cheese, dressing, and crunchy taco shell was delicious. The taco’s crunchiness and tangy dressing distracted me from the sauerkraut. I would consider ordering it again, and this is the only restaurant where I’ve heard of reuben tacos for sale. Other items that Goodman will cook-to-order, but are not listed on the menu, include a Cuban sandwich and crab rangoons. While these favorites are not necessarily secret, in general, only Old Dundee regulars request them. 

Goodman, and the staff who worked at The Old prior to his ownership, transformed it from a struggling bar into a thriving neighborhood watering hole. The space has been renovated while retaining its speakeasy roots: a massive brick fireplace defines the southern wall, topped by a massive black-and-white painting of two guys having a drink. Goodman replaced the battered green carpet that covered the floor and the bar with wooden floors, new carpet, and a newly cut and painted original cement floor in the gaming area (complete with pool tables and darts). He also installed a gleaming wooden bar flanked with carved lions.

olddundee1

“I think it’s the staff that keeps bringing people back,” Goodman says. “They make people feel welcome and encourage them to have a good time.” 

You’ll want to visit the Old Dundee soon: The bar’s lease will not be renewed. It will leave the building by the end of January 2017 to make way for Film Streams’ redevelopment of the Dundee Theatre next door. While Goodman says that the bar will remain open for New Year’s, he’s not sure when he’ll shut down for good.

“When we close depends on inventory, but we’re having fun,” Goodman says.

So while you can, come to the Old Dundee for the tacos, and stay for its vintage, comfortable vibe.