The Bar in 'Top Gun: Maverick' Doesn't Exist, But You Can Visit the Real Location That Inspired It

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(Paramount Pictures)

You can't go to the Hard Deck, the bar featured in "Top Gun: Maverick," in real life because it doesn't actually exist. The good news is that there's a place both exactly like it and even better at the same time.

While former naval aviator Capt. Brian Ferguson was working as a technical adviser for the production of "Top Gun: Maverick," he decided to take the film's director and producers to a real Navy hangout and explain the camaraderie behind sharing a drink and sea stories with other pilots.

The place he took them was the I-Bar on Naval Station North Island, and they all fell in love with the place, including star Tom Cruise. They loved it so much, it became the inspiration for the bar in the film.

Ferguson served as a naval aviator for 30 years. His job as technical adviser was to bring as much realism to the film as possible. And he wanted to ensure they all knew the I-Bar is a crucial part of the naval aviator experience.

"When you watch the movie, you're in the bar, you're in the Navy," Ferguson told KFMB, the San Diego CBS affiliate. "We'll all pile in here -- we'll all tell stories, be laughing and joking and beer spilling and lies being told, and it's great!"

The filmmakers immediately wanted to use the bar as a set for the film, but the building's size was restrictive, so they had to use a set instead. They got permission from the Navy and the Pentagon to build a recreation of the bar on North Island's Breakers Beach. After all, this isn't just any movie: It's "Top Gun."

Viewers who have been to the I-Bar on Naval Base Coronado's Naval Station North Island will recognize important props used in the recreated bar, called "Hard Deck" in the film, as they were borrowed from the real establishment.

The building that houses I-Bar was first finished in 1933, when North Point was being used as Rockwell Army Air Field. The building itself was part of the bachelor officers quarters. When the Navy took over the airfield in 1939, Building I was turned into a senior officers club. In 1969, it was renovated into its current configuration.

The entrance to the now world-famous I Bar. (U.S. Navy/Kevin Dixon)

Since then, the real I-Bar has collected important pieces of memorabilia from its patrons, including patches, model airplanes and beer steins that hang from hooks. Each stein features the call sign of a real naval aviator who's currently serving on active duty. All of that is recreated in the movie bar. Dartboards and pool tables round out the props borrowed from the I-Bar for the movie.

Visitors to I-Bar should be aware of three strict house rules, just like those featured in "Top Gun: Maverick." Violations require the offender to "buy a round of cheer," also just like in the movie.

First, one must remove their cover before entering. For civilians, this means no hats. Second, there's no touching the model airplanes, or as the prop in the film puts it, "He who touches any aircraft here shall buy the house a round of cheer." Finally, "whoever places their phone on the bar shall buy a round of cheer."

The rules of the house. (U.S. Navy/Kevin Dixon)

The Hard Deck is no longer on Breakers Beach, as it was dismantled after the film production wrapped, but the I-Bar is still in the same place it's been for decades. Now, it also sports the unit patches from "Top Gun: Maverick." Just leave your hat at home.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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