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Iowa bars now offer dart boards as its popularity renews

May 5, 2019

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) — When it comes to darts, there’s competition. Then, there’s friendship. Never shall the twain meet — at least when there’s money on the line.

“The focus is getting the money. Whether you’re friends or not, when it’s time to win, it’s time to win, you know?” Jerry “Sliver” Brimeyer, owner of Shenanigans bar in Dubuque, told the Telegraph Herald.

His is one of a variety of bars in the area that offer dart boards as an entertainment option — a pastime that is enjoying renewed popularity in the tri-states.

Though Shenanigans, by design, has a strong focus on the sport. It offers five online-enabled boards, in-house dart leagues, traveling dart leagues and it takes part in the 24-week darts league organized by Rich and Junnie’s Vending.

“When I took this position, I was quite new to darts,” said John Ohnesorge, league coordinator with Rich and Junnie’s. “Now, I play darts. It takes a lot of practice to get good at it and I’m very mediocre at best. But it would be hard for me to not at least play a little bit.”

As a vending company, Rich and Junnie’s supports darts, pool and bowling leagues. It also supplies equipment, such as dart boards, jukeboxes and arcade games.

“At any given time in the tri-state area — including Platteville (Wis.) — we have a few hundred players,” Ohnesorge said. “When I took the position two years ago there was a core group of players. My job was to recruit as many as I could, and, it’s way up from what we started out at.”

For Brimeyer, it’s simple math for bringing in customers.

“Dart players drink a lot of beer,” he said. “And, if you treat the people right, they’re going to come. I try to treat everyone equal, you know.”

One person for whom darts has paid dividends in many ways is Bruce LeGrand. His bar of choice for shooting is The Golden Pheasant in East Dubuque, Ill.

It’s managed by his wife, Debbie, and features three boards. The two met through playing darts.

“A lot of people, a lot of couples, who shoot darts met each other because of darts,” Debbie said. “We drew each other as partners in a blind draw. Then, it was history.”

Bruce has been playing for about 30 years, beginning in his hometown of Holy Cross, Iowa. He enjoyed the competition, and after developing a bad rotator cuff from pitching baseball, it turned into a perfect alternative.

And, he’s no slouch when it comes to the competitive aspect.

“I’ve shot state a few years,” Bruce said, referring to state championships that are operated by the Iowa Operators of Music & Amusements. “I’ve gotten first a couple times in four-person and two-person. I got third and fourth in the singles a couple times.”

Times have changed a lot when it comes to shooting. In the past, boards were created using everything from cork to wood to sisal fibers from agave plants. Today’s boards are electronic affairs that include score keeping, saved player profiles, screens and the ability to play against people from around the world.

Bruce demonstrated by challenging a player located in Portugal. The screen showed a two-camera view of his opponent — one head-on and one showing a closeup side-view of the board. The opponent got a similar look into East Dubuque via cameras embedded in The Golden Pheasant’s board.

“I shoot a lot online,” Bruce said. “So, like right now, since there’s nobody else here, I can get online and shoot against other people. It keeps your competitive edge going. I’m probably about a 3.7 average. Usually, your top shooters are in the fives.”

The boards also include a spot for a chip that can be used to identify players, bring up their scoring average and hold credit to play games. (One game costs 75 cents.) The boards also flip between a U.S.-standard 15-inch board and a smaller 13-inch board that’s more commonly used in Europe — something the newest model, the Bullshooter G3 Fire does automatically with the touch of a switch.

Bruce’s personal dart accouterments also include a leather case holding his preferred 18-gram darts.

“It’s actually four different pieces,” Bruce said. “Everybody’s got their own preference. But the first thing is, you grab it, you throw it, and if it feels comfortable in your hand, then you can fit the rest of it together.”

His 30 years of expertise is a resource that’s available to shooters, especially those who might be starting out.

″(Bruce) helps a lot of people who are learning,” Debbie said. “He works with them and explains, especially, Cricket. Cricket isn’t anything you can just go up and throw.”

The way he sees it, introducing new players to the sport is all part of the game.

“I just try to show them some of the beginners’ things to do,” he said. “I try to get them to throw the dart hard and have a good follow-through. Then, after that I work with more of the aspects of the game.”

Having more invested players is a tide that rises everyone from those who are looking for a game after work on Wednesday to the establishments that cater to them. And those establishments try to work together to keep the tide high.

“It brings business to the bar,” Brimeyer said. “Summer business is slow. And it’s not like it’s every bar for themselves. We can’t do that because then you’re having dart players pick and choose. I won’t put a dart tournament on someone else’s weekend. There’s kind of a handshake agreement.”

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Information from: Telegraph Herald, http://www.thonline.com