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Focus is Saying No

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People describe it as sketchy. Ghetto. Lame because you can’t even get a mixed drink. The bathrooms are gross. And it smells like urinal cakes inside.

This is a bar in my hometown. And I love it.

He’s Not Here is the definition of a dive bar. It’s the oldest bar in Chapel Hill, NC for one reason.


The bar has its own beer garden. It’s fantastic on a warm spring day. It attracts all types of people. Even the sketchy ones.

The downstairs is an old automotive garage - and it still feels and smells like it too. Kegs are shoved in a corner.

The bathrooms are disgusting. And the ceiling upstairs is low. When it’s packed, you feel like you can’t breathe.

It doesn’t own a liquor license. It serves just beer and champagne. But there in lies it’s focus.

The Blue Cup.

It’s famous for one item on its menu. A 32 ounce plastic cup that you can fill with beer. There is only one place you can get a Blue Cup. And it’s He’s Not Here.

“When you think about focusing, you think focusing is saying yes. Focusing is about saying no. And when you say no, you piss off people.

The result of that focus is really great products. Where the total is much greater than the sum of the parts.”

Steve Jobs

He’s Not Here could have changed. It was for sale on Craigslist in 2012.

The bar could have added food. Undergone renovations to eliminate the smell. And started to deter the sketchy people who frequented it.

It could have got it’s liquor license. They even joked about it on April Fools this year.

But it didn’t do any of these things. It’s never changed.


In a town where coffee shops and breweries thrive, the oldest bar remembers when this town was just a village.

Since 1972, He’s Not Here has been full of focus.

Focus is not about trying hard. Doing more. Or saying yes. It’s about saying no. Taking a stand. And having a point of view.

If you’re not pissing people off, you’re not focusing.

Find me on Twitter @thischrisgallo or GitHub @gallochris or Instagram @heygallo.