Image provided by: University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries, Lincoln, NE
About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Feb. 11, 2000)
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Frequenters of Iguana’s enjoy its
artistic and lively atmosphere
This is the second in a series of 12 stories
exploring the history of the O Street bars. The
strip - which begins at 14th and O streets and
runs down to Ninth and O streets - has served
as a major gathering place for University of
Nebraska-Lincoln student for the past 70 years.
By Jason Hardy
When it comes to picking a favorite bar
there is one thing almost everybody looks for -
Without atmosphere, there is no character,
and a place without character is about as gener
ic and popular as plain labeled beer.
For many college students, the concept of
character is usually measured by the “lived in”
feel of a place. But Jodi Luth and Becky Smith
say character doesn’t have to mean sucking
down swill at a local dive.
As the owners of Iguana’s and its adjoining
Lizard Lounge, 1426 O St., Luth and Smith
take great pride in the character and atmosphere
of their establishment.
And while it’s something they’ve worked on
for almost 10 years, they say the true character
of Iguana’s and the Lizard Lounge began in the
early 1900s and only has grown with each pass
“Where everyone got the notion that college
bars have to be dumps is beyond me,” Luth said,
while casually sitting in one of the elevated
booths adjacent to the Lizard Lounge’s bar.
To her right is a smooth and sturdy black
shelf supporting two antique lamps. Behind the
lamps is an exposed red brick wall.
“With a college crowd, you’ve got to have
the latest music, art and even colors, so we’re
always remodeling and making changes,” she
said. “That’s probably why we’ve lasted all
these years - why we’ve had lines for nine
While Iguana’s and the Lizard Lounge cur
rently boast some of the most attractive decor of
the downtown bar scene, the walls weren’t
always adorned with art and nostalgic acces
When Luth and Smith purchased the space
in 1991 that currently houses Iguana’s, it was an
army recruiting center.
Once they got on their feet, they had the
money to purchase the space directly to the east
of Iguana’s, which was then Harman’s Camera
Center, and created the Lizard Lounge.
But until the ’90s, the building played host
to a number of different businesses, including,
but not limited to, Lincoln Office equipment, a
lumber yard and the Eureka Hotel, which was
also rumored to be a brothel.
Appropriately enough, around 1905 the
building also was a brewery. The cpginal wood
floor is still intact in the Lizard Lounge.
Of course, 95 years ago the floor that now
houses a pool table was actually a place for dri
vers to back up horse-drawn wagons to the
brewery’s docks and load kegs.
While waiting, the horses often urinated,
which explains the discolored portions of the
I izard Lounge’s prized wood floor.
It doesn’t get much more “lived-in” than
that, but somehow Luth and Smith have man
aged to create an impressively classy ambiance.
“There are some standard things you always
want to do in a club,” said Smith, motioning
toward the space between tables and the overall
flow of the enormous room. “But we also want
ed to keep as much of the old feel in the build
ing as we could.”
With 7,000 square feet of space, Iguana’s
and the Lizard Lounge have the largest capacity
of all the bars on the strip. With such a large
space, Luth and Smith work hard to create an
open feeling without the emptiness of a large
It’s done by decorating the walls with
antique mirrors and art by both local and
national artists, while leaving ample room to
navigate around the room’s variety of tables.
It’s an impressive display, and one Luth said
wouldn’t exist without the help of her staff and
the people in the community who’ve con
tributed to the bar. Not only that, she’s aware
that ambiance can only go so far.
“To us, service is everything,” she said.
“When you come out with your entertainment
dollar you should get good service. Some of our
staff has been here for five or six years.”
She is quick to point out the marks staff and
university students have left.
Above the pool area on the Iguana’s side is
an enormous, prehistoric-looking fake lizard
skeleton that a former University of Nebraska
Lincoln student artist made.
The columns flanking the Lizard Lounge’s
bar were painted colorfully by a former bar
tender, and the tile mosaic on the floor sur
rounding the bar also was created by a former
The contributions are so many that it’s
impossible to recognize them all, especially
because it won’t be long before things are
“In two months, this will all be totally
remodeled,” Luth says standing near the center
^ With a college
crowd, you ve got to
have the latest
music, art and even
colors, so we re
oflguana’s. “I think this will be the fourth time
we’ve done it.”
And if the building’s past is any indication
of its future, this renovation won’t be the last.
GLASS from page 10
exhibition of Chihuly’s work, along
with acquiring such a fantastic piece
for the Joslyn’s permanent collec
“This exhibit is a coalescing of
different desires,” she said. “We’ve
been interested in identifying an
artist to do a permanent installation
in the new atrium area and, looking at
the many challenges of the space,
Chihuly’s name came up early as an
artist who’d be well-suited for tne
task, because his work is tremen
dously visually exciting.
“One way to expand that for our
public was to get him to come here,
so this seemed like the perfect com
ing-together of opportunities.”
Many glass blowers have known
the work of Chihuly for years. The
artist’s work has undoubtedly been
cited as being very influential in the
Mark Labrecht of Artisan
Access, a glass gallery and studio
with the only glass-blowing hot shop
in Omaha, said Chihuly’s influence
on the medium of glass blowing is
“He’s taking glass blowing and
using it architecturally,” Labrecht
said. “It’s presented glass blowing in a
whole new fashion. He makes pieces
a part of the building. He doesn’t just
take something and set in on a table to
be adorned, it’s part of the whole
experience of the building.”
Much of Chihuly’s contribution
to increasing the artistic status of
glass blowing is derived from the fact
that he was co-founder of the
Pilchuck Glass School, an institution
in Washington that has had a pro
found impact on glasswork artists
worldwide. Also, because of injuries
to his shoulder and the loss of vision
in his left eye in the late 1970s,
Chihuly was no longer able to blow
glass by himself, so he employs a
” His work really thrives on the perfect
lighting conditions and we went to
great extremes to provide those
I .. • ' -
associate curator for 20th century art at Joslyn Museum
large number of helpers who, in turn,
learn from his instruction.
“If you talk to anybody who’s
somebody in glass blowing right now
they’ve worked with Dale in some
capacity in the past,” Labrecht said.
“So I think what he’s done is to
encourage everybody to the fact that
glass blowing is out there.”
People want it and they love it.”
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