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HiLo Club remains dive bar home away from home

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Patrons drink at the Hilo Club in Oklahoma City, Friday, Nov. 6, 2015. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Patrons drink at the Hilo Club in Oklahoma City, Friday, Nov. 6, 2015.

It’s okay to call HiLo Club a dive. It likes it that way.

Tucked away just off Classen Circle, the HiLo is a maze of a bar. It’s dark. The music is loud. The scent of cigarettes long-since smoked permeates the air. That might not be for everybody, but everybody is welcome, said bar manager Topher Sauceda.

“The HiLo is a place where any and everybody can come and be themselves,” he said. “We’ve got a very diverse crowd. Drag queens, lawyers, bikers, punkers — everybody fits in here.”

Mark Hughes takes a drink of his beer as he arm wrestles Al Rojas Jr. at the Hilo Club in Oklahoma City, Friday, Nov. 6, 2015. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Mark Hughes takes a drink of his beer as he arm wrestles Al Rojas Jr. at the Hilo Club in Oklahoma City, Friday, Nov. 6, 2015.

Open daily from noon to 2 a.m. at 1221 NW 50th St., the bar is a home away from home for regular patrons. Sauceda said people seeking shelter from storms, literal or metaphorical, find their way to the bar.

“During tornadoes or blizzards, whenever people lose power, they come here. For whatever reason, we always have power,” he said. “And even if we don’t, they still come here.”

The history of the name come from the unique building the HiLo occupies, a sturdy concrete structure with top and bottom levels. Back in the day, Sauceda said, there was a club upstairs and a club downstairs. Since 1956, it has been the HiLo.

Though the 39th Street Enclave is known for gay-friendly bars, Sauceda said the HiLo has a history as a place for those who are out and those who aren’t yet out to mingle.

“It’s a refuge for people,” he said. “It’s a place to be seen when you want to be seen and a place to hide when you don’t want to be seen.”

It’s also a place to get a strong drink. Its signature cocktail is the Holy Diver, and it’s one most first-timers are encouraged to try, said Sauceda. But beware; this sweet and fruity beverage packs a serious punch with a mix of coconut rum, 151 and orange, cranberry and pineapple juices topped with a splash of grenadine.

Another top seller is the HiLo Happy Meal: a shot of peppermint Schnapps and a Miller High Life for $3.50. The bar goes through about 30 cases of the beer each week.

Get a little loose and you’ll be fine, but if too many Divers lead to trouble, Sauceda said, you’ll be gone in a hurry.

“We’re a dive bar, and we’re proud to be one,” he said. “People have been coming here a long time. We take care of them, and they take care of us. If you cause trouble, you’ll be leaving quickly.”

Though competition in the market is always growing — new bars seem to open every hour in OKC — Sauceda said the HiLo will endure because it isn’t new. It isn’t trendy.

“People come here because it’s reliable, consistent and it’s always fun,” he said.

Print headline: Dive deep, HiLo Club doesn’t shy away from the “dive bar” label; it embraces it.

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