Tag Archives: The Tavern

Great Scot!

October 13, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

He began serving as the vice president of LGBTQ+ advocacy organization Heartland Pride last fall, but David Kerr hails from nowhere near Nebraska. The Glasgow, Scotland, native followed love to Omaha in 2013, and although his relationship ended, his business venture, The Tavern, blossomed in the heart of the Old Market. Today, Kerr jokes about printing cards to answer the daily question of how and why he ended up in the middle of America, but maintains he’s found a good fit in his adopted city.

“Omaha is hugely supportive of young entrepreneurs and business startups, and they have a sense of community here that you would never find anywhere else to nurture someone like that,” he says. Kerr prides himself on running an inclusive establishment that welcomes all; he’s even one of the first locally to offer gender-neutral bathrooms.

In turn, his business supports numerous nonprofits by serving as an event venue, participating in giving program Together A Greater Good (TAGG), and even directly supporting fundraising efforts. Kerr’s interest in giving back to the community began an ocean away, but one particular cause will always be close.

David Kerr

“Before I called Omaha my home, I volunteered for an LGBTQ+ organization in London called ‘The Albert Kennedy Trust,’ and they did some incredible work. And it really gave me an appetite to work for change no matter where I am,” he says.

The 1969 Stonewall riots are largely regarded as the catalyst that brought forth the U.S. gay pride movement. Heartland Pride’s official beginnings trace back to 1985. It’s a better world today for most LGBTQ+ people, Kerr says, but there’s still work to be done.

“Since then it’s remained crucial to our community to remain visible and proud. It’s easy to get complacent when we make strides,” he says. “For the gay community, it’s still relevant because honoring and celebrating our culture is still relevant.”

Dozens of countries around the world still criminalize same-sex activities, Kerr points out, and in eight countries death is a legal punishment.

“It’s important to remember the tradition of honoring those who went before us, the ones who were denied their human rights, and the ones who physically lost their lives as well. It’s important to still get out and be proud to honor those lives and shine a beacon of hope to people around the world. There are people who are suffering way more than people here in the United States,” he says. “We’re not acing it here by any means, but at least we’re making strides.

Allies should take notice, too, he adds. Locals may associate Heartland Pride with its annual June parade and surrounding events, but it’s also an important fundraiser for the nonprofit—run completely by volunteer efforts—whose activities include a scholarship program, a community action grant, and several youth programs.

“It’s obvious in this political climate that anyone’s rights can be called into question at any point by any government, and that’s not just true for the United States. Things are not static; they’re constantly moving, so we need to remain proud and visible so that no one ever does infringe upon our rights again,” Kerr says. “And that’s true for many communities, not just LGBT.”

Visit heartlandpride.org for more information about Omaha’s LGBTQ+ community.

This article appears as part of the September/October 2017 edition of Encounter Magazine.

The Old Market Business Association

March 25, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Potential business owners often dream of being independent and making their own decisions. Businesses in Omaha’s Old Market district have that freedom.

“We’re not in a mall where one management company organizes us,” says Troy Davis, the group’s president. Davis has owned Curb Appeal Salon & Spa at 10th and Jackson streets for 17 years.

At the same time, the business owners are not isolated. The common thread between these independent companies is the Old Market Business Association (OMBA).

The OMBA has neither office nor staff. But the nonprofit does have 50 members who meet monthly and share information about what’s going on in the historical business district. There are two member categories. An active member must have a business located at either side of 10th to 14th streets and Leavenworth to Farnam streets. Businesses outside the area can join as associate members.

Troy Davis

Troy Davis

They’ve got each other’s backs. In January, when a fire destroyed M’s Pub and devastated nearby businesses, the OMBA immediately jumped into action. Member David Kerr of The Tavern started a crowd funding page for the displaced employees within 12 hours of the disaster. Members called an emergency meeting and discussed how they would help.

“We’ve always been a tight-knit group, but it really shows in times of tragedy,” says Davis. “The whole Old Market community came together for the businesses, their employees, residents, and everybody who was touched by the tragedy.”

Shoplifters in the Old Market also face a band of brothers and sisters. “Within minutes, the police department notifies the Old Market Business Association, and we immediately notify members,” says Davis.

Sharing information at the group’s monthly meetings are representatives from the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau, MECA, the Downtown Improvement District, and the City of Omaha. Representatives from major events, such as concerts or conferences, also attend.

“We learn what groups are coming to Omaha, where they are staying, the demographics and how many [people], so we can be better equipped to take care of those people,” says Davis.

Another major member benefit is the website—oldmarket.com—which collected more than 170,000 visits last year. The website is a perk for members who can advertise their business and promote specials.

The group’s largest and best-known event is the annual “Old Market Trick or Treat.” Held the Sunday before Halloween, the event is a partnership with Metro Area Transit, Metro Community College, the Literacy Council, and a private donor. It provides children a safe place to trick or treat.  A unique event-within-the-event is “Books Are A Treat.” In October 2015, 12,000 new books—all from a private donor—were handed out to families.

Independent but united through the Old Market Business Association, the active businesses are an eclectic group ranging from galleries to restaurants. Contributing to this independence is the decision by property owners not to rent to franchises in the Old Market district, except those that are locally owned or businesses that started in Omaha.

“Unique, small, independently owned businesses are what makes the Old Market have the charm it has,” says Davis.

“That’s why the Old Market is cool. And the place to be.”

Visit oldmarket.com for more information.

The Tavern

March 13, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Before September, potential patrons looking to get a drink might have stopped just short of The Tavern—not realizing that a bar was down the street. However, after a few renovations and a name change, patrons can now clearly see the updated bar.

Formerly The Old Market Tavern, the bar has changed more than just its name since David Kerr and Dave Haverkamp purchased it in July. One of the most unique changes is the addition of a 105-year-old Brunswick bar.

“It was in the Muehlebach Hotel, and Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and every president from when it was installed until Ronald Reagan stayed at that hotel when they were in Kansas City, so you have to assume that many of them probably sat down at that bar,” Haverkamp says.

Still, the addition of the historic bar was only part of the changes the duo made. In a whirlwind six days, Kerr and Haverkamp closed down the bar to begin renovations that included getting rid of a platform that split the bar in half lengthways, creating a congested area for guests trying to get a drink.

“We had the floor redone as well,” Kerr says, “and we brought in church pews as a part of the furnishings, and we took a wall down as well in the back. It was like a small dart room, so we knocked that wall down, and we renovated the bathrooms as well. It was a diet of pizza and Red Bull just to get through the six days, but it was good.”

Kerr, who has a background in both hospitality and marketing, also decided to light the awning outside and revamp The Tavern’s logo to give the bar a more modern feel. Kerr added a colored, flashing LED light above the logo as well so that patrons can see the bar from 10th Street.

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Both Kerr and Haverkamp took a bartending class in South Beach to revamp their bartending skills. They usually bartend once or twice a week now at The Tavern, but bartending or not, they’re at the bar every day talking to customers. They claim it’s their favorite part of the day. Both owners are proud of their famous Moscow Mule and hope to add more specialty cocktails and perhaps even a food menu. But they’re most excited about the Scottish soda-infused cocktails.

“There’s a soda from Scotland which outsells Coca-Cola, and I’ve had that shipped over from Scotland,” Kerr says, “so we can actually start using it in cocktails. You can’t miss it. It’s bright orange.”

When Kerr and Haverkamp bought The Tavern last July, they ran the bar the way it was for two months to learn about the customers and to get a feel for what changes needed to be made. One result of this observation period was to change the name only slightly from The Old Market Tavern to simply The Tavern. “The reason why we didn’t completely change the name is because we really want this to be kind of a local place to go. That’s how we envisioned it,” Haverkamp says. “Yeah, it’s a neighborhood bar, but we wanted it to be homey. But the products are good, and the cocktails are good, and you know…we offer something a little bit different,” Kerr says.