The Last Days of Gold Bar

The doors are closing on the Valley's most eclectic coffee house.

"I come down here because it's a relaxing atmosphere, and because they don't mind that I sit here with my laptop plugged in, my cell phone plugged in, and conduct my business. I'm the kind of person who, while I'm an independent contractor, I don't think I could sit at home without being distracted . . . and I find that if I come down here I'm usually more efficient with my time, even though it takes me 15 minutes to drive down."

He has no idea where he'll go when Gold Bar closes.

Another Gold Bar fixture: The Owner's piano.
Irvin Serrano
Another Gold Bar fixture: The Owner's piano.

Friday, May 17, 5 p.m.

Gold Bar staffers had whispered there was a chance the doors would be locked for good today, but there's no sign of anything unusual, and business goes on.

Dave Maass appears. The glasses are back. The rubber ball is gone. It popped at home, he says, when he was holding a knife. He's waiting for a call from his Smoker's Helpline counselor.

Maass is looking hard for a job, and took a test to work at Rula Bula, the Irish pub on Mill Avenue. Maass has no experience as a waiter or bartender, but he worked in the Irish Embassy when he lived in Japan. The test didn't go so well.

Josh Schicker has resurfaced. He's been busy. He moved to a new apartment, his car broke down and he finds he gets more done on his comic at home than at Gold Bar, where he knows too many people. He never stopped smoking.

Maass has decided that when Gold Bar goes, so will his friendships. Jeff Newton's thinking about moving to downtown Phoenix, Schicker will hang out at bars more and Joy and Jamie will do something totally different, Maass figures.

"We're not going to hang out together," he says. "We don't like committing to friends."

Maass has been looking for a new hangout. He's considering Roots, a coffee house that opened recently on Mill Avenue. Parking's a problem, but there's a fountain in the middle of the place, and the coffee drinks are cheap.

Thursday, May 23, 5:25 p.m.

Musicians are in and out of Gold Bar all the time, but still, it is strange to see two small women lugging huge harps into the coffee house.

Gillian Nieboer and Leslie Jabara are Fiona-McGregor, a harp duet named after Nieboer's harp, Fiona, and Jabara's harp, McGregor. The women are proficient harpists (they insist it doesn't take much) and have voices good enough for the Phoenix Symphony's choir. But they really draw a crowd for their renditions of Crowded House and New Order ballads — and their pseudo-Irish patter in between.

Nieboer says, "We thought there's just not enough cheesy, sappy '80s music out there."

"Played on the harp," Jabara adds.

Gold Bar groupies from Dave Maass to Audie Leah Gehring really believed that Jabara was Irish and Nieboer was a former nun with three ex-husbands (including Christ, as Jabara says in her act). Actually, Jabara is Lebanese. She works in semiconductors and is music director at her church in Ahwatukee. Nieboer is Irish, but she's only got one ex-husband. She's an account manager at Qwest.

Nieboer belongs to a group called the East Valley Entrepreneurs, which used to meet in Gold Bar's vault. She's been a regular for years. Last December, she heard that Gold Bar needed some musicians to play the Saturday before Christmas, so she called her friend Jabara and told her to dust off her harp. Nieboer hadn't played the harp herself in 10 years; she went out and bought a new one for the occasion.

They crammed to learn Christmas songs, and Fiona-McGregor was such a hit that Gehring — even after she found out that Nieboer wasn't a former nun — started booking them. Now they also play at the Authors Café in Scottsdale, making just enough to cover the monthly installments on their harps.

This afternoon Fiona-McGregor play a quick set including Lisa Loeb, New Order and Crowded House — as well as some Sarah McLachlan and a rousing "Danny Boy" — then bid farewell to Gold Bar. This will be their last performance.

"I would say I'm a little verklempt," Jabara says, waving her hand in front of her eyes, "but I'm Irish, so I don't say that."

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