Two years ago, Nathan Boslet envisioned his own Margaritaville.
The 38-year-old from Altoona wanted to approximate what he called an "ocean-type setting." So he asked his friend and neighbor, contractor Joe Smith, to build him a tiki bar on his outdoor deck.
"We've been to a lot of beaches down south, and we were once at a place called the Sunset Grille in the Outer Banks (of North Carolina), and it was like a different world," Boslet, a warehouse driver at Furrer Beverage Co. Inc. in Altoona, said. "I told Joe, 'That's how I feel when I walk out of my upper deck.' I wrote down what I wanted, and he envisioned what I envisioned."
Mirror photos by Gary M. Baranec
Joe Smith of Altoona and his wife, Kris, entertain their friends at the ocean-themed bar on the deck outside of their home. Called “The Boat House,” the pool-side bar features a 4-foot-by-11-foot painted boat that was torn in half.
What he envisioned was a backyard paradise - a Jimmy Buf-fett-inspired Shangri-la that would provide him and his wife, Dana, 38, with an escape from the pressures of everyday life and offer their children, Noah and Ni-cole, 10 and 5, respectively, with a place to have fun and unwind.
"It's not just the relaxation; it's the friends that make it fun for her - that's what she really loves," Boslet said of his wife's affinity for the beach-themed bar. "It's just a place where we can go for a couple of hours to forget about work and forget about life for a while.
"As for the kids, they have a blast, just like we do," he said. "They play their Xbox games or play cornhole (a beanbag-tossing game) or just enjoy the music with us. We have a few drinks, and the kids play. It's just a relaxing time."
The L-shaped, 10-foot-by-2-foot bar sits about 20 feet away from the hot tub on Bos-let's 24-foot-by-24-foot wooden deck, Smith, 45, who owns J.B. Smith Construction in Altoona, said. Its front is made of corrugated steel and galvanized aluminum (at bottom); the bar top is constructed of tumble stone tiles.
"It has that weathered look - like it's been through a storm," Boslet said. "Joe did a beautiful job. He does really good work."
Boslet decorated his bar with seashells, pictures of friends at the beach, plastic fish and crabs, flip flops and beer bottles. Black, wrought-iron stools and a small dormitory-style refrigerator surround the bar.
"He actually got the idea from a Kenny Chesney video," Smith said. "He said, 'I want a bar like that. I want to feel like I'm at the beach.'"
Having a theme for a home bar adds a distinctive touch that most commercial bars lack, Smith said, adding "anyone can do this if they have the interest, initiative and passion to do it."
The first order of business is deciding on a theme, he said, adding that, aside from the popular ocean-themed bars, he's seen firefighter, Goth, wild west and sports themes. The most common places to have one built are the living room, outdoor and indoor decks, basements and garages.
For any theme bar, it's a good idea to select some posters or paintings to adorn the walls and give a unified sense of decor, according to Kegerators.com. For the tiki lounge, try tribal masks. The theme tends to range from African to Pacific Islander. For the wild west theme, install swinging saloon-style doors and hang up some antiques on the wall - an old cowboy hat, some chaps, a lasso or a cow skull. Goth-themed bars look good with black and red velvet hanging from the walls.
One of the simplest themes is the sports bar, the website states. Just hang up a few posters, have the TV set to a sports channel all of the time, and you have the basics. A pool table or table-top sports and sports history books are a nice touch.
Smith's own ocean-themed, pool-side bar, "The Boat House," is actually a 4-foot-by 11-foot painted boat that was torn in half. It sits on an L-shaped deck (12 feet by 20 feet on one side; 12 feet by 12 feet on the other) made of cedar and bamboo. Resin bar stools and a cooler flank the bar, which he's adorned with shark teeth, beach photographs and an old stern wheel. He just ordered a vintage boat propeller and an anchor.
"It's like a 'Margaritaville,' 'Cheeseburger in Paradise' (both Jimmy Buffett songs) kind of theme," he said. "I've just always loved boats and the water.
"I just finished mine a couple months ago, but you're never really finished - you just keep adding more paraphernalia," he said. "For me, this is just something fun to do - something to do to see what I can create."
His wife, Kris, 44, and their two grown sons, Cody and Joey, 20 and 25, respectively, relish the bar, he said.
"The boys like to have their buddies over during the summer - it's like the local hangout," he said. "They sit around, drink soda, have a campfire and hang out with their girlfriends. Kris looks forward to Fridays - just unwinding."
Bryan Starr, 40, of Altoona, completes the fun-in-the-sun trifecta - all of whom hang out together and visit one another's theme bars on a regular basis.
Smith built Starr's "Crab Shack," about a year ago, Starr said. The 12-foot-by-2-foot bar sits on a 50-foot-by-30-foot poolside deck. The bar, lined with canvas chairs, has a tempered glass, shadow-box top enabling visitors to sneak a glimpse of sand, sea shells, crabs and photographs.
"It's like a New England crab restaurant-style on a dock somewhere," he said.
Starr, his wife, Eileen, 40, and kids, Nicholas and Jayden, 14 and 11, respectively, all enjoy the camaraderie of getting together with friends and family.
"Whenever I'm not working, we go to one of three houses," he said. "Typically, we get together on Fridays - we call it our 'happy hour.'"
Boslet noted that all three theme bars have mascots.
"I have a parrot named Kenny Chesney, Joe has a pelican named Tucan, and Brian has a pelican named Jimmy," he said. "Everyone who comes in has to toast the mascot with the first beer."
His advice to prospective theme bar owners: "You only live once ... so follow your heart and do what you want to do."
"It's all about relaxation and getting away from the problems of daily life for a while," he said "When friends show up, that just adds to it - that's what makes it special."
Mirror Staff Writer Jimmy Mincin is at 946-7460.