To succeed on Poyntz Avenue, it takes more than good deals and bold neon lighting, and at Finn’s Neighborhood Pub, there are no frills or gimmicks and no fancy dress codes or high prices to confuse patrons, owners Tanya and Satish Ram say. Walking through the door, photographs tell stories of dart leagues and pool legends, friends and strangers, who found a community in the 28-year-old downtown fixture.
“Before anything, I was a customer here, when Greg and Marcia Finn bought the place way back in ’95,” says Satish. Satish used to play competitive darts with the Lounge Lizards, a team that regularly made appearances in the dart league at the pub back when it was known as the Gin Mill. He later became a bartender in 2003 and Tanya followed suit shortly thereafter in 2004.
“We figured there was potential here,” Satish continues, “and that’s pretty much the reason we said, ‘Let’s buy the place when it does go up for sale.’”
Finn’s has a history of patrons becoming owners. Like the Rams, Greg and Marcia Finn were frequent patrons to the Gin Mill in the 1990s, and it was only natural for the Finns to seek ownership once they heard the Gin Mill was seeking a buyer. In a 2016 profile for The Manhattan Mercury, Greg said it was a simple decision to purchase the bar, only spending a few minutes thinking about the deal before entering discussions with the owner.
The Finns faithfully ran the establishment, garnering business from regulars and newcomers, for 23 years in the downtown district. This is an area of town with over 149 years of history running underneath its streets, and the tenure of Finn’s bar in this span was no insignificant feat.
Maintaining a Familiar Atmosphere
The Rams aim to further develop the community-oriented culture within the bar that began with the Finns, building on an atmosphere in which everyone knows each other, like a “home away from home.” It’s this community mindset that draws repeat business to the downtown bar and retains staff in Manhattan’s otherwise fast-paced, college-centric bar culture.
In addition to the comforting atmosphere, the Rams believe consistency and efficiency are key to success for Finn’s. Wherever you’re from, you should be able to visit the bar and expect the same quality service.
Today, Finn’s employs five people and many of them are also happy to visit the bar or to offer a helping hand on nights off if there is an especially heavy crowd. Several of the staff —as well as regular patrons—transferred over when the bar was purchased by the Rams, lending to a loyalty to the business often craved by new entrepreneurs.
The Rams state that this achievement is due to quality customer service employed by the establishment, from owners and bartenders getting to know customers and making visits “a personal thing.”
The Aggieville Alternative
Even with a loyal, established customer base, the Rams are focused on adjusting to industry changes and developing a wide array of activities and events to attract new customers. Because of this, the pub is able to transform from a Wildcat fan-filled sports bar on Saturday to a karaoke club on Tuesday with dart league and pool league nights in between.
Live music is a top priority for the Rams, creating an energized, responsive and sound-absorbing environment for local and traveling musicians such as M31, Rise Again, Evolution and Box Turtles. An eclectic spectrum of live music is being booked reliably and consciously, including rock and blues acts as well as country. By establishing a regular live music function on Thursdays at 8 p.m., and occasional Saturdays, Finn’s has acquired more and more appeal to the average Manhattanite.
For those who’d rather select their own playlist, the open jukebox environment allows anyone to be the DJ for a group of friends or the entire bar. There are seven TV screens, so patrons can view competition from multiple places within the bar alongside friends who are more prone to punch at arcade-style video games focused on bowling, with some added surprises like Skee-Ball and a claw machine. But arguably, Finn’s most expressive event is the annual Halloween party, which doubles as a celebration of the bar’s anniversary.
In addition to expanding the pub’s activities and events, the Rams have spent time brightening the walls, removing obstructive blinds from the front windows and updating floors, bar tops and tabletops to elevate the quality of the facility. There’s no kitchen onsite, but customers are allowed to bring in food and Blue Moose, a neighboring restaurant and bar, offers free delivery service to the pub. Tanya says the pub has also been focused on building a safe culture for female customers by training staff to keep a close eye on all the action inside the pub—staff members have no qualms asking someone to leave if they’re causing others to feel uncomfortable. Ultimately, the Rams’ goal is to create a safe, clean and modern establishment for all patrons.
The Rams jokingly refer to their business as the “adult Aggieville alternative,” complete with the traditional attractions spied in many of the bars and restaurants located there—bright colors, school spirit, neon signs and enticing drink specials. Yet there’s an indescribable feature of Finn’s Neighborhood Pub that contributes to its charm, making it an approachable and memorable addition to the local nightlife. At Finn’s, you can expect a little bit of everything to create an experience like nothing else.
Jason Teal is a resident of Manhattan, Kansas and teaches writing at Kansas State University and edits the literary journal Heavy Feather Review. He organizes the community reading series Driptorch at Arrow Coffee Co. His debut book of short fiction, We Were Called Specimens, will be released in July 2020 with KERNPUNKT Press.