The Baghdad Bar & Grill
Remembering the Days When A Beer Run Was a Blast
DPx Gear Founder, RYP Remembers His Time In Baghdad -- There was a special time in Iraq after the invasion and before the insurgency really set in. A strange place of Hescos, blast walls, and drinking Belgian Coronas on the roof while watching fire fights and car bombs. It was Baghdad at its worst - and best.
Contractors, spooks, soldiers and businessmen were pouring in, most of them riding the corkscrew landing flight or the tedious high speed run from Amman to Baghdad in high mileage Ford Excursions.
Baghdad was “Green” or “Red” based on the ever expanding blast walls and the short run to Baghdad International Airport (aka BIAP) along Route Irish. It was guaranteed to provide thrills, as insurgents took pot shots, blew themselves up or launched “shark teams” to zipper unsuspecting cars. If you survived that, plus the crushing heat - you could use a drink.
WHERE TO HAVE A DRINK BETWEEN BOMBINGS
There were official bars like the “Ishtar”
at BIAP or the famous Al-Rasheed Hotel
. For non-drinkers, the Green Zone Café had shisha and live acts. As you may have guessed, they all were blown up or closed down at some point, so the bars and hang outs for Westerners moved into basements and back alleys. Places like the Chinese restaurant, "Cum Knocking Shop" and The Baghdad Country Club. Wait - what? A golf course inside the Green Zone? Relax. It is all just the dark humor that flourished at the time.
BAGHDAD BOOTLEGGERS & SPEAKEASIES
Also inside the Green Zone, was a truck-based liquor store that required snaking through the armored F450’s and Suburban's interior to get to the golden treasure inside. Crates of ice cold Heineken, Corona and other smuggled beer were available. For a certain window of time, an attractive 22-year-old blonde coed from Florida named Heide was available too. You can’t make this up. This was Baghdad.
The driver that brought the goods from Amman and the local airport also risked his life to quench the thirst of locals. If the military showed up it was game over, someone would rat out the liquor store and it would be shut down…just long enough to look official. Then it would magically re-open.
THE TOP LOCAL HOTSPOTS
In addition to the hotspots outside of the T-walls, were hotspots inside. Depending on the day, pop up bars inside security team houses, embassies and secret spots would serve booze on the proviso that it was word of mouth.
Probably the most famous was the Baghdad Country Club
(which owned the aforementioned crowded retail outlet) which even sold branded polos with a golfer. There was no golf course, however. The creator was former British para-turned-contractor-turned-bootlegger James Thornett
, who managed (for a very short window) to run a decent club with cigars, good wine and a "fin de siècle" ambience, that only a war zone can create. Their slogan was “It Takes Real Balls to Play Here”.
Other bars popped up and the Journos had their own little bars on their hotel roofs. Journos would do their stand ups and then catch up on the latest gossip and news until the cool hours of the morning.
In the end, the male dominated sausage-fest of the bars gave way to more discreet hotel rooftop get togethers. In the shift from US control to the Iraq-ification of Baghdad, the bar was repeatedly raided and ultimately shut down in 2007. Owner James and the lovely Heide were given 24 hours to leave Iraq.
BAGHDAD NIGHTLIFE TODAY
Today Baghdad is not quite back to normal, but the city has no shortage of nightlife. Not so much of the alcoholic kind, but shisha bars, outdoor restaurants, ice cream shops filled with young people - most of whom do not remember the bad old days - when grabbing a drink was a life or death event. The DPx Gear Baghdad Bar and Grill™️
is a tribute to all those speakeasies, roof top watering spots and entrepreneurs who kept Ex-Pat spirits up and cool during the hot years of Iraq.