Barhopper: Firehouse Saloon

05:00 AM, May 24, 2013

Rochester's Firehouse Saloon draws a range of patrons and supports a variety of causes. (Kyle R. Schwab)/


Written By Pete Wayner

Firehouse Saloon

Address: 814 S. Clinton Ave. (at Meigs Street).
Hours: 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Friday; 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
More information:(585) 319-3832 or facebook.com/TheFirehouseSaloon.

Lime green-colored points of light fly across the floor of Firehouse Saloon’s large side room.

Local reggae/dub/rock band Personal Blend takes the stage, arrayed in tank tops and T-shirts. The bongo player stares, entranced and hands flying. Smoked glass lights cast a cozy glow over the crowd as the boys begin a cover of “What I Got,” by Sublime.

Next Friday and Saturday, when live music is showcased again, a country band might take their place, or a metal group. Here, the bands are as local and eclectic as the clientele.

There’s certain bars you can go to — they’re dance clubs,” says Firehouse Saloon owner Dave Hartman.

Other establishments are golf bars where patrons wear preppy shirts, he continues. “This is the mix. From machinists to motorcyclists to mechanical engineers.”

Firefighter jackets hang under the saloon’s tin ceilings, surrounding a curved bar that spreads throughout most of the main room. Hartman said he was inspired to go with the firehouse theme after serving as a Victor volunteer firefighter in the mid-90s. He walked away with a love for giving back to his community and helping others, which is why in 2010, he opened the saloon.

Although firefighters don’t account for the majority of the saloon’s patrons, a spirit of community service prevails here. After the Webster firefighter shooting in December, Firehouse hosted a benefit and raised $6,000 for the West Webster Fire Department. The bar also sponsors an annual bowling tournament for Children Awaiting Parents.

Framed photographs hang on the saloon’s walls, honoring heroes from Rochester’s past. Hartman searched the city library’s archives for black and white pictures of horse-drawn fire engines combating towers of smoke and cinders.

Meanwhile, chalk-written specials advertise daily $2 shots of Devlin Irish Whiskey and Lemon Drops and $3 drafts of Pyramid Snowcap — just one of the 48 beers on tap. Sunday and Monday is particularly special at Firehouse, when wings are 45 cents. Manager Keith Diehl, who bears a marked resemblance to Russell Crowe, said the wings here stand out because they are made with love.

We don’t do a lot of things adequately,” says Diehl. “We do one thing the best.”

It seems the city agrees; the saloon won the title for Rochester’s best wings in November 2012’s Cluck Crawl. Of eight varieties, the sweet and tangy Firehouse sauce is the most popular, Diehl says.

Next to the kitchen, a door opens to the back patio. A high wooden fence separates the outdoor stage and seating from the rear parking area and the rest of the outside world. Inside, Hartman’s ideal saloon remains undisturbed.

You pull up a seat and make a friend,” he says. “That’s a saloon. There’s no rhyme or reason — you go there and relax.”