To walk into Close Quarters Pub, Zydrunas Ilgauskas has to contort. He cocks his head and slides in. The Avon Lake dive is maybe the size of a one-car garage. You’d have trouble fitting a 1950s Chevy inside, let alone a giant Cavalier. And walking around, he has to be careful. Some low-hanging areas won’t house all 7-foot-3-inches of him.
The bar only has eleven chairs, but it’s known to well-known folks out on the west side. Dick Jacobs has been in there before. He bought a round for the packed bar once, owner Harry Schindler says. It cost him all of $50. Schindler says Jacobs laughed when he told him how much he owed. The Conway brothers used to bring some of the first kegs of Great Lakes Brewing Co. beer out there to be served.
The first time Z was in was one of those crowded nights, the better part of a decade ago. Z stood along the back wall, then realized he could sit comfortably on a ledge others rested their drinks.
He fits in there. At least as good as any man too big for a small bar can fit. When he walks in, sometimes there’s a gasp, Schindler says. Not because he’s a millionaire. Not because he’s a basketball star. But because he’s seven friggin feet tall.
“The people in the bar are in awe of his size,” Schindler says.
But as he settles in the bar with his wife or a buddy, he slowly fades. “This is the kind of place you go to laugh, not talk about serious stuff,” Schindler says. “And he likes to laugh. We knew he’d fit in the first time he leaned back and laughed at the conversation.”
The bar isn’t far from his house. It’s the kind of place that would never be built today. It pre-existed zoning, and sits in a front yard of a home. Until 20 years ago, there was never a bathroom. The bar patrons just (attempted to) head to the house and use the john.
And I love the fact that of all the places Z could choose to belly up to a bar, he picks a place like this. It just further emphasizes the point made in Jeanne Roberts' piece on the big guy in this month's magazine: Z is Cleveland.