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story.lead_photo.caption Lynn Atkins/The Weekly Vista Bill McCleary, the bartender at the Highlands Pub, takes pride in knowing many of his customers by name. The Pub's winter hours are 3 to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Friday.

The latest incarnation of the Highlands Clubhouse is a neighborhood pub.

"We're like 'Cheers,'" Bartender Bill McCleary said. He takes pride in remembering the names and the drinks of many of his customers.

The Clubhouse has been home to several full-service restaurants over the years. Recently, many restaurants leased space from the POA. The last restaurant at Highlands, the Mason-Dixon Line, closed at the end of 2016 so the owners could pursue other opportunities. Part of the problem was probably low traffic in the area, POA general manager Tom Judson said shortly after the business closed. The Highlands Golf Course and Clubhouse are located on the far western edge of Bella Vista in a neighborhood of single-family homes on large lots.

Low traffic has always been an issue. But in 2015 when the former administration of the POA floated the idea of a small snack bar geared to golfers, 300 residents filled the small dining room to demand a full-service restaurant instead. A full-service restaurant, Mulligans, had closed the summer before. Mason-Dixon Line should have been the answer, but it struggled with the same problem.

McCleary was there when the pub opened in the fall of 2017. The bar is located in the back of the building overlooking the golf course. His customers can spill out into the former dining room where there are two dart boards and a corn-hole game. The entrance to the building has a pool table.

There has been some experimentation with a small menu, McCleary said. Some of the food, like hot dogs and brats, come directly to the bar, but other food is provided by Lakepoint, another POA restaurant located about five miles away. The Lakepoint chefs prepare sandwiches without any condiments so they stay fresh longer. Recently they've added one hot dish each night.

McCleary said he never knows what hotdish is coming. Offerings have ranged from lasagna to beef tips to chicken gumbo. Customers call ahead and ask him what's for dinner.

With a plate of food for $5 and happy-hour prices for drinks, the pub is an affordable evening out of the neighbors.

McCleary introduced one of his regular customers as the mayor of Highlands Pub. Mike Messerli said he enjoys coming into the pub because he always meets a lot of nice people. McCleary said, if he finds out someone is a new resident or a visitor, he sends Messerli over to welcome him and answer questions.

On New Year's Eve, the pub had a very successful event, POA business director Tommy Lee said. Tommi Carter, a bartender from Lakepoint who often fills in at the Highlands, came with a plan for a party that night. She suggested a band that she knew happened to have the date open.

It fit perfectly, Lee said, with his ongoing effort to add music to the POA restaurants. At Highlands, the music is scheduled for once a month, "Last Day Music."

On New Year's Eve, Lakepoint was holding a customer appreciation event and those customers were invited over to continue their celebration at the Highlands. It was a good night, Lee said.

The next "Last Day" will feature Bella Vista Resident Keith Nicholson from 5 to 8 p.m.

General News on 01/08/2020

Print Headline: Highlands Clubhouse is neighborhood pub

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