If you are reading this, then you likely are a true Columbian. Most students have left the city for wherever they call home, leaving Columbia a bit quieter for the next few months (but certainly easier to navigate).
And while most Midlands bars and restaurants brace themselves for the slow burn of thinner crowds during our famously hot summer, NightCaps on Devine is going about business as usual.
The Shandon neighborhood bar, in the center of Devine Street’s commercial activity, is well patronized by its neighbors and friends. Bar owner David Harris opened NightCaps in 1999 once he decided to move on from his stake as part owner in Saluda’s restaurant.
“I was driving up Devine, saw the ‘for lease’ sign in the window and called the landlord and asked if I could put a bar in here and he said yes. Then I got started ripping the place apart,” said Harris. “There was nothing in here. I had to build everything: the bar, the kitchen, the bathrooms. This was just four walls.”
Seventeen years later, the bar’s popularity with its steady crowd of customers, from restaurant employees to young professionals, has not waned. Maybe it’s the Golden Tee golf game that keeps them coming back. Or the vintage cigarette machine that’s restocked every week. Whatever it is, its working – quite well.
“I define this place as a comfortable neighborhood bar for grown-ups,” said Harris. “We don’t get a lot of people from far out. It’s usually within a 4-, 5-mile radius.”
So what do NightCappers like to drink?
“We sell a lot of white Russians, believe it or not,” said Harris. “We’re the white Russian place in Columbia.”
Another popular drink here may explain NightCaps’ certification as one of the “great bourbon bars of America:” the Manhattan. Comprised of Jameson, sweet vermouth, bitters and a cherry, the cocktail is a daily throwback indulgence for regulars.
“You don’t see a whole lot of them anymore, but it’s a classic, sophisticated drink,” said Harris. “You feel special when you drink it.”
Craft beer also holds its own, with Conquest’s Blonde and IPA readily available in bottles.
“There are plenty of bars that have lots of taps, but we don’t have the space, so we have a nice bottle beer selection that sells a lot,” said Harris. “We wait till somebody asks for something new and then make room for it by weeding something else out. I’m always adding new beers but at the price of getting rid of something.”
That’s a small price to pay for yearlong loyalty.
“If this place was kind of seedy or trashy or wild, (Shandon) might not embrace us so much, but we try to keep it upscale, as far as a bar can be,” said Harris. “It’s a comfortable place that you
Dwaun Sellers, email@example.com, @dwaunsellers