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A lot of things stand out about The Hive, a bar on 19th Street and St. Mary's Avenue that just celebrated its first anniversary.
First is the live music, something owner Jake Gardner has been slowly building since February, when local reggae group Rhythm Collective started playing there on Thursday nights. The Hive now offers live music five nights a week.
Second is LeBron, a 3-year-old, 130-pound German shepherd, and the bar's unofficial mascot. (He's also good for keeping troublemakers away, Gardner said.) Officially, LeBron is Gardner's service dog; the former Marine suffered hearing loss in Iraq.
And third (and perhaps even more notable than LeBron) is that The Hive is essentially a shrine to Omaha-bred band 311.
The references are everywhere — a 311 flag near the back of the bar, the framed 311 posters on the walls and the name of the bar, which is the name of a 311 song. Gardner came up with the concept for the bar while he was on — what else — a 311 cruise. And since he opened last June, the band, their families and bands that have toured with 311 have all stopped in.
Gardner has been giving away tickets to Friday's 311 show at Stir Concert Cove the past few reggae nights. He'll give away two more tickets tonight and a few more on Friday just before he and 200 others board three party buses to head to the show.
“I organize pretty big,” he said.
Gardner, an Omaha native, has loved 311 since he was a kid. When he was around 11, he said, he and a friend happened to be bowling at Ranch Bowl when 311 was playing.
“I didn't know music then or really care, but it was just really appealing,” he said.
He listened to 311 all through high school. When he joined the Marines after high school he took three CDs along — Sublime, Pantera and 311.
And when he served in Iraq, he listened to 311 almost every single day.
“That positive message, it brought me out of the dark into the light every night.”
It only seemed logical that 311 be present in his bar, too.
Gardner likes 311 for the positivity of their lyrics, he said, for their work ethic (the band seems to tour endlessly) and for the go-with-the-flow attitude of their music.
It's easy to see why that go-with-the-flow attitude is particularly appealing to Gardner.
He bought the business after he ran across an ad for a bar auction on Craigslist, where he was searching for a lawn mower.
“I went there thinking I would get, like, a Jager machine for myself.”
He was the only person who showed up, and he bought everything.
Gardner wasn't completely unprepared for bar ownership. Prior to owning The Hive, he had run his own lawn care business and had worked as a bartender.
Even so, he had a rough start, and in February, Gardner considered closing.
“I was never throwing parties, you know?”
He began featuring live music, starting with the reggae night on Thursdays. That was popular, so he added a blues night on Tuesday, jazz on Sundays and a music open mic night on Mondays. Saturday often features the best of the open mic night acts.
“The live music saved my business,” he said.
And a year in, the bar often feels like a party, he said, though probably never more so than it will tomorrow.
After the show, Gardner intends to throw the biggest after party he can.
Video: Meet Lebron and see some of his tricks