Rick Swanson wanted to build a bar.
It began as an idea, popping up in his head two years ago. Swanson, who previously owned the local bar and music venue The Chesterfield during its first five years of business, knew exactly what he wanted and what he didn’t want in his new bar.
In his own words, he wanted something “small, quaint, little.” He didn’t want to deal with a 4,000 square foot venue. He didn’t want to book live music every single weekend – too much work, he said. He wanted to build it the way he envisioned. He wanted the atmosphere to feel like the old bars in his hometown of Deadwood, South Dakota. Something warm and cozy.
And there would be whiskey. Lots and lots of whiskey.
Eventually Swanson came up with a name: Crash! Boom! Bang! Whiskey Hole. When he pitched the idea to his business partner Mac Dolan, his fellow co-owner couldn’t stand the name. “We fought about that for a month,” said Dolan, who also has ownership ties to Work & Church Booze Parlor, Marty’s Tap and Teasers Gentlemen’s Club. Crash! Boom! Bang! is located next door to Work & Church on Fourth Street.
The name is a reference to Swanson’s percussionist background – the sounds one would expect to hear when sticks meet kit. And it’s not just a catchy name. By the time the bar opened May 6 – the same day as the Kentucky Derby and Sioux City’s Barstool Open – the walls were adorned with drum-inspired memorabilia.
Autographed cymbals share space with artwork of prominent blues musicians and framed drumsticks belonging to Ringo Starr. A small drum kit looks over the bar atop a high shelf. Upon closer glance, the clock face is actually the cover of a snare drum.
Other music-related decorations fill the space that would likely be occupied by neon beer lights if Crash! Boom! Bang! was a regular ol’ bar. “We’re pretty selective,” said Swanson. “I don’t want any beer lights at all – none. I wanted whiskey neons. We’re still in the process.”
As expected, the bar serves plenty of boozy cocktails like Manhattans and Old Fashioneds to its clientele of whiskey enthusiasts, as well as other signature drinks. But Crash! Boom! Bang! is still a full service bar that offers plenty of beer and liquor selections to customers who don’t have a palate for whiskey.
“It’s not just designated as a whiskey bar, but we have to differentiate ourselves from the 97 other bars in town,” said Dolan. “We specialize or feature the whiskey drinks.”
Swanson has as taste for the barrel-aged libation. He enjoys his whiskey neat – straight from the bottle, no additives. Crash! Boom! Bang! uses Bulleit Frontier Whiskey as its mainstay pour, but also has about 40 other unique whiskey brands at its disposal.
Is whiskey in high demand in Siouxland? Dolan, judging sales from other establishments he’s involved with, said yes. “A huge amount,” he added. “It’s a hot trend as of right now. I think whiskey is taking over the craft beer. Booze, in general, is just like any other hot item. There’s always a change in the bar industry.”
Swanson said he’s happy to be back in the bar business. He enjoys the company of customers and enjoys their feedback, especially when it comes to whiskey. He wants to give guests a unique and comfortable experience that’s memorable enough to make a return visit.
Having bartenders smoke a serving of whiskey is just one of those one-of-a-kind experiences. Using a high-powered torch and a portable food smoker known as The Smoking Gun, bartenders infuse a glass of whiskey with smoky flavor profiles and a rich aroma.
When it came time to construct the bar, Swanson spent many days and nights renovating the space once held by Richardson’s Southern Style Sausage. The finished product was just as he imagined. It’s small and quaint and inviting. A small stage is stationed near the corner for booked musicians to play. The soft lighting paired with the bar’s earth-toned color palate gives off a warm glow.
The bar’s copper tabletop is actually composed of pennies lined together in rows and columns. The roof is rustic and worn in, and a section of a wall is composed of brick and mortar, bearing the bar’s name and insignia along with its mainstay pour, Bulleit.
It’s a bar with character. It’s very much a reflection of its signature liquor as it is a reflection of Swanson, from the drum memorabilia to whiskey-colored walls.
Crash! Boom! Bang! wanted to be different from the get go. Swanson and Dolan agreed this approach was important, especially in a town like Sioux City where there are so many options for customers to turn to. “I think you have to set yourself apart otherwise you’re the same old thing,” Dolan said.