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Q&A with John Dwire: Owner of The Field House & Whiskey Dicks

What’s every guys dream in life? To eventually own a bar. If you’re luckier, you get to own two bars. Many people do it and many people fail. 

For one bar owner in Wichita, he’s been doing it for over a decade. That bar owner is John Dwire who owns The Field House and Whiskey Dicks. If you attended Wichita State University, there’s a good chance you have been to the Field House for a drink or two

I had a chance to get John Dwire as a guest for the Wichita By E.B. Q&A Series to learn about his bars, the recipe for success and more.

One guy played basketball and one guy is  a bar owner. Guess…..

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Eddy: John, we would like to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to participate in our Q&A Series. Could you tell the readers about yourself? 

John Dwire: I’m 44 years old, married, no children, born and raised for the most part in Wichita with an exception to living in Redondo Beach California for 5 years.  Graduated from Wichita North and Wichita State University.  

I started in the bar business with bartending the day after I turned 21 at McGraws here in Wichita. Went to InCahoots when they opened in Feb. of 1994. I worked my way through the ranks and left as the assistant to the GM in 1999. Went to bartend at America’s pub while I finished my degree in Criminal Justice at Wichita State. Went back into management at Rita’s Little Uptown while attending a local Law School. Then in 2001, I bought the Field House with my good friend and mentor Ken Pruett who was the GM at InCahoots. Later, I bought Whiskey Dicks in April of 2010 with another good friend David Rowden that worked for me at The Field House for almost a decade.

The Field House

Eddy: Wow. Going to school along with many late nights working every job possible in a bar learning as much as you can. Fast forward to today and you are the owner of two different bars in town. Was owning a bar something you always thought you would do in life? 

John: No, I knew I wanted to bartend early on and that led to management. At the end of my time at InCahoots I went to my dad and I told him that I thought I was ready to find something else to do for a living. I thought he would be happy to see me get out of the bar business but to my surprise he thought that was a bad idea. He said you’re 28 years old and you’re running the biggest club in a four state area and that I was good at it.  After seeing how the industry and the numbers worked, I knew it was something I wanted to do but first I wanted go back and get my degree.

Eddy: Let this be a note for all those in their twenties feeling lost in life, don’t stress out if you don’t know what you want to do in life. You have all the time in the world.

For the readers who have never been to either of your establishments, how would you describe your bars to those looking for a new place to grab a tasty beverage? 

John: The Field House is small college bar located across the street from WSU. It’s clientele consists of mostly college students and service industry. It has 40+ years of Wichita State tradition. Cheap drinks for the college students yet a nice selection for the more sophisticated drinker.  TVs line the walls to catch all the Shocker games. Other amenities include pool table, dart boards, covered patio with a TV, Golden Tee and a Jukebox.

Whiskey Dicks is a whiskey and sports lover’s dream. We carry over 100 whiskeys currently and will be closer to 200 in the next few months.  We offer 14 big screen TVs to show all sporting events.  We have a fresh menu of mostly appetizers, hot sandwiches and burgers with a few other specialty items. Everything is hand battered and made in house.  Other amenities include pool table, steel tip darts, covered patio and deck patio, Golden Tee and a Jukebox.

Eddy: The Field House is actually the very first bar I stepped into when I was of legal age. I’ll always remember that…..kind of. But another very good memory is the amount of charity work and money you have raised for good causes including a friend of mine who passed away. Could you tell the readers about your charity work your bar has done and any possible future plans? 

Field House Golf Classic

John: People go to bars and drink in good times and in bad.  Fundraisers are usually about both, getting through the bad to get to the good.  Anytime we can do a good thing, we find that we benefit on many levels such as networking and new clientele. It’s good for the business and the soul.  We have raised money for different types of cancers, coats for kids, individuals in need of help and have donated to scholarship funds.

The Field House Golf Classic is probably the most known fundraiser we have done. It all started when my good friend Josh Urban had a stroke about 13 years ago. I put together the 1st Annual Field House Golf Classic to help him out.  I was amazed by the way my friends and the community came together to help. In 11 years we raised around $75,000.00 for individuals in need. Unfortunately, Wichita State no longer has a golf course so we are working on another plan.

Our next fundraiser is a Testicle Festival with live music Saturday, April 9th at Whiskey Dicks.  

A Whiskey Dicks patron got into a motorcycle accident with a semi Feb. 28th. He survived but is need of financial help while he is in recovery. We’re bringing in 60 lbs of rocky mountain oysters for an all you can eat price of $20. 100% of that money will go to the individual and his family.

Eddy: Coming from somebody who has played in the Field House Golf Classic over a handful of years, I can say it was one of the best Golf Tournaments I’ve ever played in. It also hits very close to home as one of those tournaments benefited a friend of mine that had a medical condition.

Let’s talk about your V.I.P. nights. In many circles, your name has come up as one of the best bar owners in town. You are very big on taking care of your loyal patrons. What are your VIP nights and how did those come about? 

John: Thank you for that. It started when my partner Ken Pruett and I opened The Field House in 2001. We made a big changes like putting in the patio, installing a new tap system, TVs, paint, carpet and a top to bottom cleaning and we wanted to show it off.  

Field House – WSU Baseball Game 2015

We went all out, offering the best price we could on drinks, gave them a free steak and released our first Field House shirt.  Everyone said you need to have one of these every month. That seemed a bit much but settled on doing it three times a year. With the opening of Whiskey Dicks we went to two a year at each bar.  

The Field House spring VIP is coming up and it is always a favorite.  If you buy the shirt at VIP Part 1 April 11th you can get into to VIP part 2.  We rent the pavilion in the outfield for a WSU baseball game and your shirt is the ticket to that party.  It is a sight to see 100+ Field House Shocker fans all together in the same shirt having a good time supporting our SHOX.  

Eddy: That’s great. Of all things at Wichita State, our baseball team could definitely use the support. 

Every man’s dream including mine is to open up a bar? What advice do you have for those people looking to achieve their dream? 

John: There are many misconceptions about the idea of owning a bar and it is definitely not for everybody. Most people think it is part time job, not true. There many late nights and early days that often run together without breaks. You usually have to work holidays as these are the times your bar is the busiest. It’s hard on the body and hard on relationships. Another misconception is that your friend base will be enough to support it and pay the bills. They have lives too, and while I’m sure they would love to be at your bar every night they simply can’t do it. Don’t get me wrong it has good parts too, the bar is a fun place where you leave your problems at the door. I enjoy the promotions, the big games, friends, customers, the conversations, stories and the best part is every day is different.

Field House Cups

The recipe for opening a successful bar is experience, location, enough working capital, concept, staff and inventory control. If you can put those together you’re destined for success. You can get into a bar in Wichita with licenses, inventory and deposits for as little as $10,000.00.  These bars are probably not occupied and leased with most everything you need in them.  They will usually need some work and/or updating which you can workout with the landlord.  Be careful, there is a reason these bars are empty, make sure you know why the last or the last several owners have failed. Bars that are already established and turning a profit will cost more based on sales, profits and assets.  Then there is the build your own bar which is very expensive and difficult. The City of Wichita will not give out a liquor license if you are within 300 feet of a residence, school or church unless you are in the entertainment district in old town.  This essentially means no new liquor licenses in the City of Wichita.  It can be done but it’s going to take time and be prepared to spend money and to jump through some hoops.

Eddy: Great tips and certainly things everybody should think about if they want to get into the business. Owning a bar can have it’s ups and downs. Let’s quickly shift to the downs. Whiskey Dicks had a major fire a couple years ago which forced you to close down for a while. Tell us about the ups and downs of owning that bar.

John: After nine years The Field House was doing good paying the bills and sending my wife and I on a few vacations here and there but it wasn’t going take us to the next level.  

Whiskey DIcks

Most of my college friends had moved on by getting married, having kids and getting “real” jobs. The Field House crowd was getting younger and I was getting older. My friends and old school Field House regulars wanted something more centrally located with food and a comfortable atmosphere to watch sports and have a drink. David Rowden and I began the search and decided to go into Clifton Square where Dempsey’s is now.  

Just as we were putting the plan into action we were offered the Old English Pub. This seemed to be fate because The Field House used to be the English Pub many years ago and the owner moved from there to where Whiskey Dicks is now calling it the Old English Pub. You can see the similarities with the big beams, vaulted ceilings and Stucco exterior. It was pretty rough, it went through eight owners in six years but we knew Old English Pub had a great tradition and more importantly we liked the location.

Things were going good until the fire July 28th 2014.  I would have thought someone left something on in the kitchen but it was an arc in an outlet which no one could have predicted. We were under insured and lost a great deal of money but we decided to rebuild regardless. We couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out. I left my part time at each bar to work full time at Whiskey Dicks. My wife Lesli has taken over The Field House and is doing an outstanding job. Maybe a third bar might in the cards someday but not very soon. 

Eddy: It’s incredible story of hard work and I definitely wish you all the success on both the Field House and Whiskey Dicks. So something I have to ask as I do for every guest in our Q&A series. What are your three favorite restaurants in town? Go!

John: That’s a tough one I have favorites for different categories and they always seem to be changing but to go with my current fine dining favorites I would say Chester’s, Fork & Fennel and Greystone.

Eddy: Well on behalf of Wichita By E.B., I’d like to thank John Dwire for being our guest in the Wichita By E.B. Q&A Series.

For those unsure of where the bars are at:
The Field House is located at 3825 E 17th St
Whiskey Dicks is located at 801 S Seneca

If you know of anybody that would be great as a guest of the Wichita By E.B. Q&A Series, feel free to e-mail me at wichitabyeb@gmail.com. I’m looking for anybody who impacts Wichita in any sort of way. Thank you!
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