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Quirky Sip-N-Dip (Great Falls) makes splash on GQ magazine's top 10 bars in the world.

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March 31, 2003View for printing

The Sip-N-Dip will be rubbing elbows in March with the greatest international hot spots in the swanky men's magazine Gentlemen's Quarterly.

By KATIE N. JOHANNES Tribune Staff Writer

(I was asked by Roundtable members to reprint this article. This award is generating a lot of corporate interest in Great Falls. Shows what interest this type of PR can generate.- Russ)

The combination of retro-Tiki style, mermaids and Piano Pat's loungy accompaniment won over a GQ staffer, earning the Sip a place in the April issue as one of the top 10 bars in the world.

When she got a call announcing the news, O'Haire Motor Inn manager Sandra Thares thought someone was trying to sell her a subscription.

"I wasn't really that nice," she said.

The voice on the phone told her, "'We have some places in Tokyo, New York, New Orleans...' and Great Falls? I said I was kinda having a hard time with this."

Apparently a GQ staffer had reason to stop at the bar and was taken by what he saw. He went back to the magazine and suggested it for the top 10 issue, Thares said.

She doesn't know where it sits in the ranks, but she's tickled.

"I couldn't buy advertising as good as this," she said. "It's an honor. It's really hard to believe."

According to several Web sites, the international magazine has a circulation of more than 700,000.

Asked if she was afraid the place would be overrun with tourists after the magazine hits the shelves, Thares said: "That's so scary isn't it? But I don't really know how many people would travel to see it. What a boon for Great Falls if people start flying in to see the Sip-N-Dip."

Photographer Carlos Serrao will be arriving in Great Falls today with his assistant, and will photograph the bar on Sunday. The bar will be closed to the public during the shoot starting at 3 p.m. until whenever it's finished, Thares said.

Piano Pat Sponheim, who's been tickling the ivories for the bar for 40 years, said she feels honored.

"All I can say is I'm just thrilled," Sponheim said. "I can't even believe a little town like Great Falls would get such an honor. It's just unbelievable."

Now she has to think about what she's going to wear and what to do with her 'do.

She said it will be interesting to see what the exposure will do for the packed bar.

"We already have people coming in from different states... California, New York... . It blows my mind."

Although regulars and locals know the bar is a true jewel, it's questionable if it stacks up on the international scene.

"I think they're confused," said local appraiser Pete Fontana.

But the "ambiance" is hard to beat, he said.

Head bartender Vern Green, 36, known for his extensive collection of aloha shirts, will be behind the bar during the shoot.

"I'm half scared and half excited," Green said. "I don't even know what to think about it."

Green admitted he's never read the high-fashion men's magazine, "but knowing that we're going to be in there -- now I'll look at it."

A few years ago, all the publicity would have been overwhelming for Green -- a self-described small-town guy -- but he might start getting used to it.

In 1999, the Sip-N-Dip was featured in Big Sky Journal, the in-flight magazine for Horizon. And last year, Darryl Hannah and Anthony Edwards made appearances. Hannah even took a dip in the pool with a director, both clad in the classic mermaid ensemble.

"It's exciting every day," Green said. ... 943699.html

Reader Comments:

I had the opportunity of visiting the Sip-N-Dip while in town for a sister's reunion. My 9 sisters and I had a blast tasting the tropical-style drinks and listening to Pat's rendition of a Janis Joplin song, polka style.

I know a good thing when I see it. Great Falls has a diamond in the rough.

The Sip n' Dip is a force of nature. Piano Pat singing Neal Diamond, stiff cocktails, unbelievable ambience (they have bloody mermaids.) This place has more character than a hundred contrived big-city bars. You do yourself and those you love an injustice by visiting Great Falls and not partaking of its glory.

I lived in Great Falls for a couple of years and will never forget the amazing times my friends and I had at the sip-n-dip. Fish bowls and lounge music, what more could you ask for?

Does anybody know the mermaid at the
sip and dip? Heather Minor?

I grew up in Great Falls amd remember going to the sip and dip. one night there was a convention of the Montana School for the Deaf and Blind. they showed up at the bar. it was a bit surreal watching pat play the piano and all the deaf people sitting around the piano bar talking but with no sound!

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