From the outside, the Library Pub — in a low-slung strip mall near 90th and Fort Streets — looks like a neighborhood bar.
For many years, it did on the inside, too.
It had maybe four beers on tap, a crowd of regulars on weekdays and younger crowds on weekend nights.
Most of the drinkers favored Bud Light.
Then Mark Smith and his wife, Monique, bought the place and things changed.
In some ways, Mark Smith seems perfectly suited behind the bar at a no-fuss neighborhood place. He trades jabs with regulars while mixing drinks or pouring beers. He greets everyone who walks in, many by name. He can strike up a conversation with anybody.
He’s also a spirits enthusiast who has cultivated an appreciation for craft beers and classic cocktails.
The Library Pub has all of those things.
You can still buy a Bud Light at the Library Pub, but you can also buy one of 26 tap craft beers, which Smith switches up nearly constantly.
He also has more than 800 bottles of liquor, including about 140 scotches, 65 bourbons, 40 Irish whiskeys and 30 Canadian whiskeys.
He prides himself on having just about any spirit a customer might want. If a customer requests a drink with something he doesn’t have, Smith usually will track it down and order it.
“This is truly a supply and demand,” he said. “You demand, I’ll supply.”
Smith entered the bar business four years ago after 22 years of practicing law, a career that never particularly sparked his passion. His wife, a cardiologist, encouraged him to try something else.
In 2008, they bought the Library Pub.
Right away, Smith said, he focused on craft beers. The whiskeys he added in part because he’s always been a scotch and bourbon kind of guy, in part to distinguish the bar among Omaha’s large (and growing) craft beer scene.
And he enjoys stocking the bar with hard-to-find spirits or those with interesting stories. Among them: E.H. Taylor Warehouse C Tornado Surviving Bourbon.
According to Smith, a tornado took down this distillery’s warehouse but left the whiskey barrels untouched. The warehouse was slowly rebuilt around the barrels, but in the meantime, the bourbon aged unprotected in the great outdoors — not a common process. Smith is among the fans of the finished product.
Smith does whiskey tastings once a month, and the next is Saturday at 7 p.m. For $25, patrons can taste six whiskeys, including Bunnahabhain 18 and Tobermory 10.
The tastings, Smith said, are mostly to drive traffic, and so far, that’s been the case.
“We’re on North 90th Street,” he said. “This is not the scotch hotbed of the world.”
The Library Pub, 5142 N. 90th St., is open seven days a week from noon to 2 a.m. For more information: www.librarypubomaha.com
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The second location of Brix, the west Omaha wine bar and wine/spirits/beer emporium, won’t be fully open in Midtown Crossing until this fall. But in the meantime, the patio will be.
Beer, wine and spirits will be available for purchase on the patio in front of the former Republic of Couture on Thursday nights during the remainder of Jazz on the Green, through Aug. 16.
Patio hours are from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., with live music beginning at 9 p.m on Aug. 9 and Aug. 16. The patio will also be open during the End of Summer Concert Series at Turner Park. The free concerts will begin each Friday at 7 from Aug. 29 through Sept. 28.