Behind Bars: Pat Lewis of Hey Hey Bar and Grill

Erica Thompson

Bartending at Hey Hey Bar and Grill for nearly 19 years, Pat Lewis has seen the establishment go through numerous transformations. The front windows were expanded, making the space friendlier to patrons once afraid to come in. Air conditioning was added. And, recently, the kitchen was remodeled.

"It has a lot of potential," Lewis said. "There's a lot of stainless steel back there." A pizza oven, currently stationed on the back patio, will also go in the kitchen, which he hopes will reopen early fall after more inspections.

Customers can still expect to order the famous sauerkraut balls and a fairly new item - yak, straight from the Colorado ranch of bar owners Susan and Timothy Gall. In fact, the skull of the first animal raised hangs on a wall near the front door.

"It's really lean and high in antioxidants," Lewis said.

Additionally, Lewis has noticed a more youthful crowd coming to Hey Hey, which was built in 1900 and operated as a speakeasy during Prohibition.

"[Although] I wonder if it's turned younger or if I've turned older," Lewis said.

Still, Lewis has noticed more and more people choosing German Village as a place to settle. "The people that live in this neighborhood want to live [here]," he said. "They want some place where they could walk to restaurants and bars."

Lewis, who works open to close on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, takes advantage of the accessible environment by biking regularly to Hey Hey.

He enjoys the music showcased at the bar - a blues jam every Wednesday and occasional rock and folk bands. Recently, patrons arrived early and packed the house to see country artist Dale Watson. And the Chicago-based, Celtic/Americana band Switchback is a staple.

Lewis considers the possibility that bartending may be his natural calling, although he originally pursued a different career path. He moved from Pennsylvania to attend the Ohio Institute of Technology - now DeVry University. He studied computer programming, but eventually got burned out.

"I'm sorry that I didn't finish and get the degree … but I'm not sorry that I'm not working in that field," he said.

Before Hey Hey, Lewis spent several years at a chemical factory making resins for metal-casting foundries.

When Lewis is not bartending, he's remodeling other houses he owns or taking his 85-year-old mother out to breakfast spots like German Village Coffee Shop.

He has retirement plans in mind - "My wife and I have been shopping for a houseboat," he said - but you'll see him at Hey Hey for at least a few more years.

"It's a pleasant job; we have nice [customers]," he said. "It makes it sorta like going to a social event each day."