OU Alum Sara Havens pens her second book, The Bar Belle: Volume 2, which chronicles the nightlife of Louisville, Kentucky.
Ohio University alumna Sara Havens has a lot of "reasons to drink."
For eight years, Havens wrote about drinking and the nightlife of Louisville, Kentucky in her column, "The Bar Belle," which ran as a regular feature in LEO Weekly, an alternative weekly in Louisville, Kentucky. She recently published her second book, The Bar Belle: Volume 2, which like The Bar Belle before it, compiles some of her award-winning articles for readers to peruse.
The Post caught up with Havens, who reported for The Post for three years during her time at OU, to talk about her new book and experience at college in an email Q-and-A.
The Post: According to your Twitter account (@TheBarBelle), you consider yourself a "nightlife guru" for Louisville, Kentucky. How did you become the guru and why?
Sara Havens: As you know, along with receiving a degree at Ohio University comes a love and appreciation of bars and taverns everywhere. I began working for the alt weekly here in Louisville shortly after college, and my experience and fascination of exploring Louisville's nightlife was something I turned into a column for the paper.
P: Talking about that moniker, The Bar Belle, where did you get the idea for the title?
SH: A co-worker of mine coined the term, but the idea for the column in general came about when, after hearing of my crazy weekend stories each Monday morning, my editor finally said, “Why don't you write about these tall tales in a column — maybe our readership can live through you, because you've obviously already burned through at least nine lives.”
P: Tell me more about your newest book, The Bar Belle: Volume 2.
SH: I wrote The Bar Belle column for LEO Weekly, the alt weekly where I worked, from 2006-2014, and this book is just a collection of those columns from about 2011 on. My first volume was published in late 2011 and featured the columns from 2006-2011. I now own my own blog — barbelleblog.com — and write the columns for Insider Louisville, where I serve as the culture editor for the online news site.
The Vol. 2 foreword was written by Woodford Reserve master distiller Chris Morris, who creates one of my favorite bourbons. By covering the bourbon scene here in Kentucky, I've gotten to know a lot of colorful characters in the industry. If anyone is looking for a fun weekend trip, visit some distilleries here in Kentucky. Also worth noting: Our bars in Louisville stay open 'til 4 a.m., every night.
P: If you had to sum up the entirety of the book in one word, what would it be?
SH: Hmm, that's a tough one. I'd have to either say “passion” — because discovering bars is truly a passion of mine — or “beer” — because that's what usually fuels each adventure.
P: You've been touring around some bars in Louisville with your newest book. What's that been like?
SH: Since I self-published my book, I've had to be my own marketing and PR team. So I decided to hold my book tour in bars. If nobody comes, I can at least sit back and enjoy a cocktail or three. And if people do come out, maybe they'll buy me a beer along with my book! I also notice that as people drink more, I can easily guilt them into a purchase.
P: You graduated from OU's journalism program in 1999. What has that meant for you as a professional in the years since, and do you think the 'OU experience' is one you couldn't have gotten elsewhere?
SH: I wear my OU experiences like a green badge of courage. I don't think any other college would have given me the fundamentals of writing and journalism along with the love of Jagerbombs. I look back and remember my professors fondly (Thank you, Patricia Westfall and the late Jack Matthews) — as well as my time at The Post when I was a film critic and we only had one movie theater in town. Athens truly helped shape the person and writer I am today. I haven't visited in a while, but I hear Tony's (Tavern), The Pub and The Pigskin (Bar and Grille) are still among the top bars. Those were my favorites by far — and when I do visit, you can bet I'll be at Tony's happy hour awaiting wings, nachos and some jokes.
P: What's one tip you'd like to give for some of the budding "Bar Belles" on campus?
SH: I dedicated my first book to the late Jack Matthews, who taught one of my creative writing classes. The first thing he taught us was, “Write what you know.” Just believe in yourself, find a niche that sets you apart, and be willing to work your way up the ladder. Tony's wasn't built in a day, after all.