JINHAE, South Korea — Nestled in Jinhae there’s a little bar well worth a visit. I stumbled upon it some time ago and it has since become my local watering hole. A home away from home. Those who have been to Jinhae, or happen to live here, may have missed it, which is easy to do. Jinhae isn’t exactly known for its nightlife, but moreso for its cherry blossoms and being the seat of South Korean naval power on the peninsula.
Around here everyone goes to Busan, Changwon or Masan for entertainment without realizing there’s a great little spot right here called the Doors Pub. And, yes, it’s named after the band.
The moment I walked in, I felt like I was visiting someone’s house. You can hear the music from the street, follow it up the stairs and ‘break on through.’ Once inside you’ll find that there isn’t any actual bar at all, just some tables and chairs, with a few set up like booths. It’s dark, with phrases and names written on the walls and wood. Some strange artwork and more pictures of Jim and the band adorn the walls. Once you sit down you’ll feel how cozy the place is. The feng shui is incredible.
There’s a small screen displaying images of namesake band and other rock stars next to a little nook where the bartender hides. When he spots you, you’ll be greeted and given a menu. Fortunately for those unable to speak Korwan, myself included, the bartender and proprietor Han speak good English. All of the artwork displayed around the bar is his own.
Han opened Doors Pub in October of 2012. When asked the reasons why? ‘I had no choice, my stepmother forced me to do something.’
Han grew up in Seoul and attended university there, majoring in Fine Arts, before studying abroad in England. When choosing where to open his bar he had to choose from places that he could afford and that was either Changwon or Jinhae. He chose the latter because it was closer to home. Now he’s kicking himself. ‘Maybe I should have gotten the place in Changwon? There’s no university here, no young people.’ He even jokes about changing the name of the bar to something more current or something more popular. ‘I don’t think too many Korean people, young people know The Doors.’
When Han first opened the doors to Doors, he was concentrating more on food, serving a small selection of drinks and soju. He offered an all-day English breakfast and standard Korean fare, but had trouble explaining the concept to customers.
He’s still tinkering with the menu, trying to offer something different that people will enjoy. Doors now offers spring rolls, fries, deep fried chicken, pork, sausages and other Korean dishes. The portions are good and nothing costs more than 13,000 won.
The drink prices can’t be beat, especially the unlimited cocktails. For 15,000 won you can pick from any of the mixed drinks he offers and drink as much as you want. (Or until you start channeling Jim Morrison.) Blue Moon, Light My Fire, Long Island Iced Tea and Rum and Coke are just a sampling. Besides Hite and soju, you can get a bottle of Guinness for 6,000 won and other imports, like the Belgian beers Han is so fond of.
The real draw of Doors Pub is the music and the bar itself. ‘I always loved music, especially rock music,’ Han says. You can take a wild guess who his favorite band is. Don’t be discouraged by the name; the music played is as diverse as the clientele. I can honestly say that I’ve never been to a bar quite like Doors. You never know who’s going to be there: locals, tourists, sailors, teachers, musicians (I’ve brought my guitar on more than one occasion) and old timers that walk in by mistake and end up staying a while.
Photos by Elaine Coetzee