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Navy base’s popular bar featured in Top Gun Maverick

Capt. Ferguson brought the movie's director, producers and Tom Cruise to I Bar on Naval Air Station North Island, and they immediately fell in love.

SAN DIEGO — If you’ve ever been to the infamous I Bar on Naval Air Station North Island, you’ll notice a few familiar objects in the new movie, Top Gun Maverick.

“When you watch the movie, you're in the bar,” Said Capt. Brian Ferguson. “You're in the Navy.” Capt. Ferguson served as the Navy's technical advisor for the film. His job was to make everything as realistic as possible. His nearly 30 years as a Navy pilot made these flying scenes better, but Capt. Ferguson also knew incorporating the camaraderie of the I Bar was an important part of the experience. “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!”

Capt. Ferguson brought the movie's director and producers here, including Tom Cruise, and they immediately fell in love. 

“They looked around and thought this is perfect,” he said. “There's so much character, there's so much history. We want to use this.”

Unfortunately, I Bar's size made filming inside impossible. So what you see in the movie is actually a set, but some of the props are from the bar - whose history dates back to the 1930s. It was originally open only to senior officers, but today the bar is open to anyone with permission to be on the base.

If you plan to visit, there’s something you should know before walking in. The I Bar has some very strict rules, and if you break them, you must buy the entire bar a drink. 1) No hats. 2) No touching the dozens of model airplanes that hang from the ceiling. And 3) No cell phones on the bar.

Debbie Stoneman has been a bartender there for almost 20 years. 

“I just feel so gifted to be here this many years and to meet the people that I have cause it's incredible,” she said.

Deb is surrounded by tradition. Patches on the walls, those planes from different decades hanging from above, (a custom that was started by former bartender and Pearl harbor Survivor Walter Simmons) and hundreds of beer steins hanging from hooks that belong to active duty aviators. 

“So when you join a squadron, you get a call sign and then they make these mugs for you,” said Deb who gladly fills them with a smile.

An actress plays Deb in the movie, and they changed her name to Penny. Funny side story - that actress came in after filming a bell scene and accidentally put her cell phone down on the bar! An expensive mistake. “Don't care who you are. Don't care where you come from. Don't care what's in your wallet,” Capt. Ferguson said. “You're buying a round because this is our house and that's what we do... our tradition.”

Top Gun: Maverick extras watch premiere to see if they made the cut! 

Watch Related: Top Gun: Maverick | Global Premiere Livestream! (May 4, 2022)

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