Bar addition won’t change identity of Cafe Max, says Mahler

Cafe Max owner Susie Mahler wants to assure customers the recent addition of a bar at the longstanding Culver institution is no cause for alarm.
“No, it’s not getting changed into a ‘hoochie bar,’” she says with a smile. “There will be no pole dancers, male or female!”
She points out Cafe Max has served beer for about 10 years and had a three-way liquor license for a year and a half. She says the bar, which was installed over two days last week during which the restaurant was closed, is largely about increasing night dining to the establishment.
“We discovered even after having our license for a year and a half, people would constantly say, ‘We like to have a glass of wine or one drink with dinner and we can’t get that here...we felt (adding the bar) was a necessity to increase business. There’s only so much breakfast traffic.”
A double brass rail will separate the bar area and help maintain the family restaurant feel. With the reconfiguration of the main dining room, patrons will notice the old counter is still present (even if it’s changed location), and, she adds, diners may eat there or at the new bar.
Mahler emphasizes the establishment won’t be “boozing it up with liquor on display everywhere -- it will look very similar to what you see now.”
She says the hunt for an actual bar began last year, when it looked as if a Logansport establishment on the verge of repossession would have the right equipment. That fell through, however, and meantime Mahler was discussing the possibility of a cabinet-maker building a whole new bar, though worries persisted whether it would maintain the vintage look so prevalent at Cafe Max.
Finally, online shopping led to a bar in an antique store in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and the hunt was on to find a shipper to bring it to Culver.
The bar itself began its life, as far as Mahler knows, around 1880 in Chicago, moving later to a Pennsylvania hotel before an individual bought it, eventually selling it to the antique store. The 17 foot, 10 inch, nine foot tall apparatus is all oak, with a marble toe kick and striking columns.
Mahler is grateful to a number of people for facilitating the bar and its installation, from workers at Culver’s JMC Engineers on Main Street, to “my sister’s boyfriend Matt Salyer and his friend,” to the Cafe Max staff. Indianapolis-based contractor Kevin Call and crew stayed above the restaurant to sleep, but otherwise spent two days making the changes in the place, installing the bar and making everything ready to use, while local electrician Tony Wakefield did the electrical work and Kevin Staples did the paint job.
“We had an awesome crew,” she notes, pointing out the bar is ready for patrons to use. In fact, longtime customers George and Alma Posejpal made a point to be there on the scene as the first patrons, surely an historic moment.