Who Is Doug and Why Are His Finest Bar Stickers All Over Austin?

Who Is Doug and Why Are His Finest Bar Stickers All Over Austin?

My household and I solely dine out in Austin on Thursdays — early, when the crowds are lighter, which provides these of us with youthful diners, like our toddler and preschooler, a greater probability to take pleasure in our meal. On one in all these outings in the summertime of 2022, we went to our favourite neighborhood dive bar, Billy’s on Burnet. It was Texas-hot exterior, so we sat in a again room, the place you possibly can let your youngsters misbehave in peace. As our children have been taking part in a deer-hunting arcade sport, I used to be scanning the decorations on the partitions and ingesting a glass of Lone Pint Brewery’s Yellow Rose IPA — the beer that retains me coming again to Billy’s, together with the Inexperienced Bay Packers memorabilia (I’m a cheesehead). It was then I seen a sticker on the window reverse our desk. I used to be struck by its boldness, each within the simplicity of the design — modeled after the long-lasting Lone Star beer label — and what it declared: “THIS IS ONE OF DOUG’S TOP 50 BARS IN AUSTIN.”

I’ve been to loads of bars all over the world, however I had by no means seen something like this. “Who’s Doug?” I requested my spouse, who shrugged and gave our children one other quarter. Immediately, I knew that I needed to discover out who Doug was and what his favourite 50 bars in Austin have been.

After I got down to uncover this thriller later that December, I began with Billy’s. The bartender denied any data of the sticker, which was in a again room however proudly on show, and responded with a curt, “Hey man, I simply serve beer to clients.” It wasn’t a fantastic begin; he yelled to me on my approach out, “Good luck together with your quest!”

Unable to search out extra details about Doug and his listing on Google, I armed myself with printed pictures of the sticker I had seen at Billy’s and set out for town’s most interesting dive bars to see if Doug had anointed them as properly, and why.

My subsequent cease was Buddy’s Place, a squat, windowless, brick constructing painted fully blue, that resembles a shady-seeming long-stay motel in its austerity and advertises itself with the unlikely slogan, “House of happiness.” To my aid, the bartender, Lucie, was disarmingly pleasant. After I confirmed her the sticker picture, she replied confidently, “Like that one over there,” and walked me to one in all Doug’s stickers, positioned catty-corner to the bar, in plain sight, sandwiched between a Coors signal and a hand-drawn rabbit smoking a joint. No, Lucie didn’t understand how lengthy it had been there or who Doug was, however she recalled that somebody had tagged Buddy’s on an image of this sticker on Instagram. After looking out on her cellphone, she confirmed me the web page: @dougstop50barsatx (I hadn’t thought to make use of ATX as a substitute of Austin throughout my very own searches). “These all appear to be dive bars,” she mentioned. “Whoever Doug is, he has the identical style in bars as me.”

Minutes of Instagram-sleuthing later, Lucie thought she had discovered Doug. She scrolled by means of the Instagram feed, picked out somebody she thought could be the web page’s proprietor, and in contrast his face to these of people that observe Buddy’s Place on Instagram. And he or she discovered him. “In order that’s clearly Doug,” mentioned Lucie. I agreed however didn’t point out that I by no means would have made the connection.

Later, I used to be in a position to get in contact with Doug by means of Instagram direct message, however he refused to satisfy in particular person and requested that I not reveal his id to be able to “maintain issues extra of a thriller.” With out spoiling an excessive amount of of that thriller, Doug is a person in his late 40s who went to his first bar in Austin in 2009 and has lived right here for practically a decade.

Over Instagram DM, Doug defined why he had began his sticker marketing campaign. After having visited what he believes have been greater than 200 bars in Austin, Doug began bringing pals to bars they hadn’t been to earlier than, referring to them as Prime 50 Doug Bars. It grew to become a operating joke, so at some point a pal made him a stack of customized stickers in order that Doug might make his claims official. The design took its cues from the Lone Star label, in honor of the most typical beer at a Doug Bar.

He developed his personal idiosyncratic standards to fee bars, together with drinks (“a wide variety, signature drinks, or drink specials”), costs, bar workers (“pleasant, useful with suggestions, down-to-earth sorts, welcoming of all”), clientele (“only a good combine”), and essentially the most closely weighted issue: general ambiance, an intangible high quality that makes Doug really feel like he belongs. A jukebox or music helps, however neither dwell music nor meals nor leisure is factored in as a result of every place wants to face out by itself as a fantastic general bar. “The place would I wish to go at 7 p.m. on any given night time?” he provides.

Doug began posting his stickers in bars in June 2021. He often goes with pals and works stealthily to keep away from discover from bartenders or different patrons as a result of he has a lot enjoyable working incognito. He began posting his exploits to Instagram to share his “better of” listing with pals, however some outsiders caught on (his web page has 110 followers as of publishing who don’t know who he’s). He appears to position the stickers someplace that’s “seen however not disruptive or bothersome to the bar proprietor or workers” and infrequently places them close to different stickers, which he considers secure territory. The precise floor they find yourself on doesn’t appear to matter a lot: ATMs, merchandising machines, change machines, ice cream machines, pizza heaters, jukeboxes, breathalyzers, bar counters, lavatory stalls, doorways, home windows, partitions, and my private favourite, one at La Perla that sits below a poster of a lady with glasses that reads, “For those who see this particular person, purchase her a beer.”

A bar building with blue walls and three signs, one reading “Pool Darts Shuffleboard Sports TV,” “Buddy’s Place Beer Wine 12pm-Midnight,” and “Buddy’s Place Home of Happiness.”

Buddy’s Place.
Brant deBoer/Eater Austin

Doug stopped tagging in 2021 after only a few months and solely made it to 29 bars, however he obtained again at it once more this February and has added 9 new bars this yr. He has a grasp listing of bars (which he declined to share), which has sadly modified barely as companies have gone below because of the pandemic and associated challenges. He laments, “My very favourite bars appear to have a approach of closing down,” citing his former primary, the Arduous Luck Lounge, and Indian Curler, which closed on the finish of 2022. His present favourite is Yellow Jacket Social Membership, however that’s solely as a result of somebody set fireplace to Crow Bar in September and it hasn’t reopened but. Yellow Jacket tops his listing as a result of he feels essentially the most welcome there and likes that, whether or not it’s empty or packed, “there’s a comfy feeling there.” It additionally has a number of completely different seating areas, which is a high quality Doug likes in his bars.

The frequent theme amongst Doug’s bars is that they’re principally real Texas dive bars, which I’d outline as a bar I usually wouldn’t take my youngsters to, which frequently seems to be structurally unsound and, notably, already contains a huge assortment of stickers on its partitions. Additionally they appear to be bars that broadly refuse to give up to trendiness or to pretensions of modernity, however Doug shrugs this off. “My Prime 50 isn’t anybody else’s high 50.” He’s simply attempting to have a very good time and hopefully assist of us uncover new locations.

Doug’s Instagram web page hints at a resistance to alter and nostalgia for a bygone Austin, which manifests itself in feedback similar to when he calls La Perla “a dying breed,” writes of the Carousel Lounge, “Mercifully, some issues by no means change,” or when he begs the White Horse in a latest submit, “Don’t you go altering.” To me, Doug’s stickers appear to be his approach of bestowing an air of permanence on an oft-transitory trade throughout a very transformative period for Bat Metropolis. Fortunately, lots of Doug’s bars are nonetheless thriving, and though it won’t be a Michelin star, if he sneaks into your bar and slaps up a sticker that reads, “THIS IS ONE OF DOUG’S TOP 50 BARS IN AUSTIN,” it’ll be one thing to be pleased with.

8619 Burnet Street, Austin, Texas 78757
(512) 459-4677

3526 E seventh St, Austin, TX 78702

1110 E 52nd Avenue, Austin, Texas 78723

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