Please, please send videos of Alvis night.
There are dive bars so densely packed with visual, historical, rational, emotional stimuli that boiling the experience down to a few paragraphs feels impossible. Pinehurst Inn Bar & Grill in Indian River, Michigan, fits every bit of that description. It’s a pizza place, it’s a hotel, it’s a boat dock, it’s a dive bar, it’s a dance floor, it’s small town, it’s ramshackle, it’s so many things that it’s tempting to stop writing because words won’t do the place justice.
Along the Indian River that connects a pair of lakes in Michigan’s northern reaches, Pinehurst Inn sits a couple of blocks off of the small town’s main road (also named Indian River). And those two blocks feel considerable as the landscape shifts from quaint ice cream shop to a white building with peeling paint that looks like it could topple over at any moment. The bar’s riverside location includes a handful of vintage, dive bar signs designed to lure visitors from land and water both.
Paint on the windows proclaims “Alvis Live” comes to the Pinehurst on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday each week, a confusing sentence that turns out to mean that Alvis, the owner, plays three shows a week on what suffices for the bar’s stage inside. One can only imagine the musical selection entailed, though overheard at the bar was the direct quote, “It’s kind of Elvis and also kind of not.” The bar’s main entrance sits next to a second doorway that looks like its door has long since been removed, a portal to a staircase that apparently leads to a room that can be rented out above the bar (see Yelp for some choice words about the cleanliness of said room).
Walking into the Pinehurst Inn feels like walking through some kind of portal in time, the short, muraled hallway giving way to a sprawling, almost cavernous interior space that by nature of the lighting looks like it might just go on forever. The stimuli kicks in immediately, a CD-era jukebox just inside with what looks like some kind of mirrored duct tape proclaiming that the machine is still in use (five plays for a dollar). The space is very, very “red” for lack of a better term. The lights, the flooring, the paint, the carpet, the decorations, entering the bar feels like somehow walking into the folds of a velvet couch.
Checkerboard flooring gives way to red diamond pattern carpet gives way to a dance floor gives way to plush red booths and that’s not even counting the actual bar area itself. Said booths line the space before it transitions into a darkened corner in the distance that houses what looks to be the remains of a secondary bar. Broken chairs, a defunct piano and, for some reason, a functioning Jr. Pac Man machine make up the land of misfit dive bar toys in the back of the space.
The bar is magnificent, vintage “The Pinehurst” sign above red lighting in rippled glass, giving off the kind of light that feels more like a blanket than a spotlight. Elevated liquor lines a wooden cabinet that looks as it if it could be original to the building. The bar itself features a handful of beer taps and the portal to the bar’s kitchen area, pizza boxes stacked high and deep, hinting at the specialty of the house.
The outside area provides yet another extension to the space, a series of picnic tables haphazardly strewn about the river-adjacent backyard. A series of posts allow for boat docking along this seating area, doubling up on Pinehurst Inn’s potential dive bar clientele, by land or by lake. A short wooden fence provides some level of structure to the outdoor space and might honestly represent just about the only “structure” to the Pinehurst experience at all.
If there were ever a review to truncate in favor of a few dozen photos, a dive bar review for the Pinehurst Inn might be the one. The experience is so unique and in many ways so bizarre that the fact that the only Jr. Pac Man machine I’ve ever seen lives within its walls feels fitting. One can only imagine how an appearance by Alvis on a hot, Michigan Wednesday night might accentuate the experience.