Vicki and Troy McMillion own Happy’s Place. It’s the only bar in Berne. Established in 1934, it’s also one of the oldest businesses in the county. On St. Patrick’s Day I went in, bought a beer, and interviewed Vicki. With the music of Elvis, the Rolling Stones and R.E.M. playing on the jukebox, punctuated every now and then by Troy on his bagpipes. Vicki told me about the recent dispute between “Haps” and the Berne city council.

Why Berne?

It was the only bar for sale in Adams county and it was within our budget.

So, have you always had a desire to own a bar?

No, my husband did and I tried to talk him into buying a laundromat.

Well I’ve actually seen a bar/laundromat combination and it was called “Sit and Spin.”

That’s cute.

Anyway, just an idea. But how long have you owned this?

Five long years.

Why long?

Well, in case you haven’t noticed, this is a beer and wine bar only. There’s no liquor. There is not a city ordinance in Berne that allows a bar owner to sell liquor. The [previous] bar owners of Haps have asked the city council for an ordinance [to allow them to sell liquor] and they have refused to sign one, saying they did not want alcohol in Berne. However, it should be noted that several years ago there was an American Legion just a few blocks from here that was allowed to sell liquor because, according to Indiana law, if you call yourself a club, you don’t need the city’s permission to sell liquor. There’s also a “carry-out” out on [U.S. Highway] 27 that sells liquor and nobody’s had objections to that. The carry out doesn’t need the city’s permission because they don’t sell it open across the bar.

Could you reassign yourself as a club?

Yes. But it has to be a non-profit organization.

Oh, ok. It seems like Berne is founded around a theme of being Swiss. How do you feel about this community being founded around one theme or mindset…

I don’t have a problem with this community. The biggest problem we have is with the churches.

Really? Has it been overt or implied? Have you received letters or phone calls?

We haven’t received letters or phone calls. In fact there are plenty of people that go to church on Sunday and during the week come in here. And I don’t have any problems with that. I don’t have any problems with religion at all. But not everyone in Berne is religious and not everyone goes to church. These [religious] groups have been a serious hindrance to our growth and our business. When we bought the bar five years ago, we did not technically want a bar, we wanted to open a steakhouse. We were looking at the huge brick building next door to us. My husband and I were prepared to put a half million dollars into the building to build a huge steakhouse for Berne. It was in the paper that the city council says it’s ok for us to sell steaks and not liquor. When I was in high school I learned that you vote for your city council, your mayor, your senators, and they are supposed to vote according to what the people in your district want. That’s democracy. I had a councilman tell me that he didn’t care what the people of his district wanted, he was against us getting a liquor license and he was voting it down. And I’m sorry, where I come from that’s communist. It’s all over. It’s all over.

So you live in…

I live in Decatur.

But you obviously come down here to work every day. Could you see yourself living in Berne ever?



No. ‘Cause I’ll tell you what. My opinion is that God is everywhere. I drink maybe 10 drinks a year. If I sit in Berne and drink a beer, God sees me. There are people in Berne that think if they go to Ft. Wayne and drink beer, God won’t see them. And I have issues with that. People are being hypocrites to God. Personally, I know that God sees everything I do and nothing personal but I don’t care what you think, I care what God thinks. So if God is seeing these people drink, God should be the only one they care about. But it isn’t like that in Berne, the only thing they care about is what their neighbor and fellow parishioners think. They go out and hid what they want to do and I don’t do that. I only have to answer to God and myself.

Being a bar, do you find it hard here in Berne as opposed to other places? In terms of general sentiment.

Well yes, because if I’m shunned as a bar owner in Berne, so are my customers. I’ve got people who go to very strict religious churches that come in that back door, I’ve got some that change their clothes in the bathroom and stay all evening and at 2:30, change and go home.

Do you have any Amish that come in?

That’s who I’m talking about.


I believe that our constitution tells us to separate church and state. And I don’t believe that’s happened in Berne. I don’t care if the city council goes to church or not, I’m not here to judge them but I think that they mix their church business with their state business. And I think that’s wrong. If they should stand one way or another, they should come up with a better reason than the churches.

That’s funny because the original Mennonites that came here from Europe did it because they were persecuted by the state. The Mennonites were one of the first groups to advocate for a separation of church and state. If all of this what you’re saying is true, then it’s kind of ironic.

Yup, persecuted by the persecuted since 1934.

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