If there’s one thing you can say about Jim Turner’s bar, it’s that it’s always short-staffed. For more than 35 years, the Manila bar called Hobbit House (so successful it’s now spawned a second branch in Boracay) has been well known for the many dwarfs and other little people who worked there.
Jim Turner, the man who created the place, is an Iowa native who first came to the Philippines in 1961. After a rural stint with the Peace Corps, he moved to Manila. He got his first professional introduction to little people when he hired two of them, as doormen, for an employment agency. Soon he was deluged by requests from others looking for work.
In 1973 he created Hobbit House, naming it after the diminutive fairytale characters invented by novelist J.R.R. Tolkien. The bartenders and waitstaff consisted of little people, many from the slums of Manila. The jobs offered them an escape from the typical second-class status as freaks and outcasts.
In time, a wide range of miniature performers, from jugglers to Elvis impersonators, became affiliated with Hobbit House, and over the years, Turner is said to have employed hundreds of little people. Today the club and restaurant is well known as a music hotspot, featuring live entertainers of all sizes—not to mention more than 100 brands of beer.
The 70-year-old Jim Turner, meanwhile, can still be found around the premises. However, he has turned the business over to the little people who have made it such a tourist attraction since the 1970s. It sounds like Hobbit House could retain its distinctive character for years to come.