Backstory and Context
O’Leavers has been the pub that sits on the site of 1322 Saddle Creek Road since the early 1990s. Under its current ownership, which has been in place since 2012, the pub functions as a drinkery during the week and on weekends as a music venue hosting local artists and touring musicians from across the country. This is a key function given that the owners, Tim Kasher, Ted Stevens, Matt Maginn, and Chris Machmueller all below two important bands in the Omaha and Nebraska music scene. Tim, Ted, and Matt are members of the band Cursive and Chris is from the band Ladyfinger. Two bands that pushed Omaha based music onto the national stage and both tightly related to the Saddle Creek Record company, which houses artists from Nebraska and beyond.
During the 1990s, the pub was a bit of a rundown but charming sports bar. It was during this period that the owners added the adjacent sand volleyball court furthering the customer base and also allowing for local families or volleyball enthusiasts or clubs to sign up for time to play volleyball. Around this time was also when the sign off of Saddle Creek was put up, calling the pub the “Home of Sand and Suds.” Then in the early millennium, the pub shifted gears and another new management and owner came in under Chris Mello. The green painted walls were covered in vinyl record sleeves, the back of the main room was cleared out, and a PA system was brought in and the back of the main room was shifted around to make way for a small and intimate stage. Initially bands also played in the basement, but over time the basement went from stage to storage and now to a party room which can be rented out.
Slowly this change in the venue began to start pulling in local bands and artists alike to play their music to an audience. And as this new venue opened up to local artists and bands playing the stage became more feasible and professional, nationally touring bands were also making stops to take the stage. By the middle of the early 2000s, bands like Har Mar Superstar, Cursive, Bettie Seveert, The Rosebuds, Two Gallants, U.S.E., NOMO, The Silos, Oakley Hall, The Like Young, Okkervil River, Criteria, Ladyfinger, Voxtrot, The Willowz, System & Station, David Dondero, Tristeza, The Ex-Models, The Forecast, Dios Malos, Will Whitmore, Scout Niblett, Matson Jones, Tilly and the Wall, Matt and Kim, and the Lumineers were playing the pub. With this connection to music from the rest of the country, it began to place Omaha on the map and helped the rise of the music scene here in Omaha.
This rise in local music also came other aspects of Omaha culture. The pub has always invited more than just rock bands to the stage. There has always been a presence of hip hop, jazz, country and even performances outside of music. O’Leavers has over the years started having more nights throughout the month dedicated to stand-up comedy and having weekly open mic nights where attendees can get up on stage and perform whatever they want to an audience. They put on O’Leaversfest once a year in early fall where, if weather allows, bands play outside as well as inside all day. They also have in more recent years hosted Oktoberfest celebrations.
O’Leavers has been a staple of Omaha nightlife for decades now, but it has seen multiple phases in the time it has sat on Saddle Creek. The first phase of the bar was when it was The Roma Copperhead Fireplace Lounge. The Roma was an establishment back in the 1960s where the drinks were stiff, the general atmosphere of the bar was cozy, and smoke filled. The Roma attempted to be a slick but approachable establishment that fed its customers food and drink. This is how the bar would remain until the latter half of the 1970s.
After the Roma came and went, the pub became Goddard’s Bar and Grill. With this change of management and ownership and also aesthetic, came in a new set of customers as well as old. Goddard’s attempted to be a more approachable bar and house big screen televisions for the surrounding clientele to walk in, meet their friends, have a few beers and watch the game. The menu also shifted to serving food more typical to a sports bar, burgers and fries and anything greasy enough to get someone through the game.
Though O’Leavers has remained in the same building as The Roma and Goddard’s, a lot has changed from the time of those two previous bars. Aside from the addition of loads of records sleeves posted up on the walls and the addition of some very interesting graffiti on the walls of the bathroom, the pub in 2014 added a beautiful beer garden and additional bar counter behind the pub. This meant adding another building to the possession of the pub but added to what customers could do and allowed those customers that wished to attend the bar but not a show a space of their own separate from the main room when the weather is nice.
Machmueller, Chris. Interviewed by Paul Jensen. Phone interview, April, 14 2020.
Apple Podcasts. “Omaha Talks: Omaha Talks - Episode 3 - Chris Machmuller on Apple Podcasts.”
“Home - O’Leaver’s Sand Volleyball.” https://oleavers.mycafecommerce.com/.
writer, Laura Capitano / World-Herald staff. “Review: The Dream of the ’90s Is Alive at Midtown Bar.” Omaha.com. https://www.omaha.com/entertainment/review-the-dream-of-the-90s-is-alive-at-midtown-bar/article_ec1f6115-4b23-51b3-ab78-b980fb9e0ee4.html.
McMahan, Tim. “The Club Is Open: Cursive Takes Over O’Leaver’s.” The Reader (blog), December 5, 2012. https://thereader.com/news/the-club-is-open-cursive-takes-over-oleavers