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Daily Texan: Ace in the Hole

09/18/1997- Bars around here are dropping like pool balls in a corner pocket, but the Hole in the Wall is still on the table Peg Hines plays pool in the game room in the back. Bedwetter plays Hole in the Wall. Colin Jones, left, John Dufilo, Jason Garner.

Story by Angelica Cancino and Dianna Lucia Photos by Thomas Terry

The year was 1974, the legal drinking age was 18, Austin was surfacing as the "Live Music Capital of the World" and Doug Cugini opened Hole in the Wall on Guadalupe Street, a simple community bar that promised to welcome anyone.

The year is 1997, the legal drinking age is 21, Austin is the "Live Music Capital of the World," and Cugini's Hole in the Wall is still one of the few neighborhood bars left that offers a quick get away.

The neighborhood around campus is now missing such favorites as Antone's, Les Amis, the Texas Union Tavern and Wheeler's, but Hole in the Wall is holding its place among campus' hot spots.

"Hole in the Wall is just happy breaking even," bartender Brooks Brannon said. "Our goal is not to get rich; our goal is to survive."

Debbie Rombach, who has been manager of the bar since 1979, has witnessed the changes of the bar scene over the years.

"When the drinking age was changed to 21, we lost half of our clientele," Rombach said. "But we were still able to provide a service to our underage clients through the music."

The Hole in the Wall thrives on the commitment of the patrons of the bar.

"Bars have gotten so specialized," Hole in the Wall regular Pasqual Wilson said. "Here, there is a diversity in the music and the people. There is no set look that a person has to have to be a part of this bar."

Pasqual, a performance artist and poet, has been a regular at Hole in the Wall since the early '80s.

Manager Rombach said the bar is successful because it has a tremendous amount of support from its regulars.

"There are people that have been coming here since they were in college," Rombach said. "There are over 300 long-term customers that I know that come in here on a regular basis."

Upon entering the bar one is met with the Hole's "Hall of Fame," a tribute to the regulars, past and present.

"It's a work in progress," Rombach said. "The pictures on the walls weren't a conscious effort. A lot of this stuff has been brought to the bar from people's travels. Everything in our Elvis shrine was donated by regulars and workers."

Asenath Bartley, a waitress who has been working at the bar for a month, remembers her first experience with some of the regulars.

"It was my third night working here, and I had gotten a flat tire in the parking lot," Bartley said. "The guys sitting at the bar jumped off their stools to go change my tire when they heard."

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