By Matt Wickstrom, LexGo
Photos by Matt Goins
While much of the landscape surrounding the watering hole at Third and Jefferson streets has morphed over past decades, the rock ‘n roll dive bar on the corner has remained a place for folks from all walks of life to gather and knock back a cold one.
A dimly lit dungeon of sorts, the Lantern’s interior greets patrons with a pool table, free for customers to play.
It’s surrounded by walls draped in concert posters of yesteryear and inclusive messages of “No violence, racism, homophobia or transphobia” that help to foster a laid-back and welcoming environment that regulars refer to as their second living room.
The bar extends it’s mission of inclusion and community involvement by hosting fundraisers and raising awareness for local charities such as Greenhouse 17, Lexington Humane Society, Bluegrass Rape Crisis Center, Planned Parenthood, Central Music Academy and Toys for Tots, among others.
“We don’t try to be anything we’re not, which is a rock ‘n roll dive bar with a neighborly feel,” said co-owner Lindsey Mullen. “A lot has changed on Jefferson Street through the years and we’re happy to be one of the constants. We will continue to grow and adapt as the neighborhood changes but we also feel it is very important to hold on to our roots in the area.”
Keeping with the bar’s gritty aesthetic, popular specialties include the Scumbag – a Bürger Beer with a shot of bourbon – and the Truly F****d – a Truly hard seltzer and gin poured over ice.
The Lantern also features eight beers on tap including locals West Sixth Brewing, Blue Stallion Brewing Company and Ethereal Brewing to go with cans of Narragansett, a Rhode Island-based beer that movie buffs will remember as Quint’s drink of choice in 1975 box office hit “Jaws.” The bar has even hosted clambakes sponsored by the New England-based brewer the last two summers.
A newer, more exotic addition to the bar is a rum-heavy Tiki Java, a concept co-owner Robert Garrison launched in 2017 as a bar within a bar catering to the happy hour crowd. It offers over 100 spirited selections to choose from catering to tiki enthusiasts. Open from 4-8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 1-8 p.m. Friday through Sunday, the tiki bar has a rum lineup that ranges from the 13-year old pure Barbados rum from Foursquare at $25 a shot to an English Harbour 5-year for just $5 a shot.
“I prefer to keep the majority of the inventory accessible enough for the rum-curious to explore a little,” said Garrison. “Some of my favorite rums are the least expensive, and rival ones four times the cost. It really is the most diverse spirit in the world.”
Built in 1924, the building first served as a grocery store and hemp warehouse. But for more than 50 years it has been a series of bars. For many years the building was split down the middle into two businesses before arched walkways merged the space into one in 2013.
The building was known as the Hideaway Bar as recently as 2006, when then-owner Philip Mudd sold to Transylvania University alum Harry Sommerville. As a student, Sommerville spent at the Green Lantern Restaurant on the corner of Seventh Street and Elm Tree Lane. With the approval of restaurant owner Virginia “Mom” Haycraft, now retired, he rebranded his bar. as the Green Lantern Bar.
Following seven years at the helm, Sommerville sold the business to Robert Garrison. In 2017 Garrison recruited partners Mullen and Erin Thompson, both former Lantern bartenders.
“Having worked the bar since before I owned it (Lindsey and Erin) have developed such close relationships with our regulars that it often feels like an extended family,” Garrison said. “As new owners, that vested interest makes all of the difference in the success of the bar.”
IF YOU GO: THE GREEN LANTERN
Where: 497 West Third Street
Hours: 4 p.m. – 2:30 a.m. Monday through Thursday and 1 p.m. – 2:30 a.m. Friday through Sunday
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