Boise's Oldest Bars
Determining the oldest bars in any area requires not just data and primary sources, but decisions
on some fairly arbitrary criteria of what constitutes a single bar throughout the years.
My data is far from comprehensive (and I'd love to get an
email from anyone who can suggest additions),
so this may remain a work-in-progress for some time.
I have already benefited from much input from Boise historical groups, including several relatives
of former owners.
Let's start with the criteria I personally think make the most sense, with my best estimate of
the years in which they were established:
Oldest bars in Boise, maintaining the same names, in the same buildings, and same locations
1. 1940-1941 - Little Dutch Garden (building constructed 1940)
2. 1949-1950 - 44 Club (building constructed 1946)
3. 1953-1956 - Broadway Bar (building constructed 1925)
1955-1956 - Overland Bar (building constructed 1954)
Oldest bars in Boise, maintaining the same names, but including those in different buildings and/or locations
1. 1938-1941 - The TK Bar (moved from 802 Broadway to 3231 Federal Way in early 1980s; then to 6455 S Eisenman in 2012)
1940-1941 - Little Dutch Garden
3. 1945-1950 - Cactus Club/Bar (moved to current building in 1973)
1949-1950 - 44 Club
1949-1950 - Vista Bar (current building constructed 1962)
6.1953-1956 - Broadway Bar
1955-1956 - Overland Bar
1955-1956 - Quinn's Lounge (current building constructed 1965)
Finally, if you allow for name changes, we must add the Crooked Bar / The Suds, established in 1947,
Bar Gernika, which was The Cub Tavern since 1948 and the Trade Dollar Bar for some time prior to that,
and perhaps 10th Street Station, in the old Idanha Hotel, which has hosted bars since at least 1905
and probably since 1901.
Note that in a few instances Ada County records indicate that the current building occupied by
the bar was constructed some time after city guides list the bar at its current address.
So if you're chosen criteria for a single bar required that it goes back only as far as the
building it currently occupies, you'll want to move the Vista Bar, Quinn's, and the Cactus back
a few years.
The major source for the dates above are Polk city directories, along with some telephone directories.
Polk directories are fairly comprehensive and accurate, but not perfect, particularly for businesses
on the outskirts of central urban areas.
I have data for the bar sections of the majority of the Polk guides for years in question,
but have substantial gaps as well.
In addition, the Boise Polks appear to have an unusual number of bars that were listed in the "white pages"
sections but not under the bar sections of the "yellow pages," which increases the chances that I've missed something,
although I have tried to check for all contending bars for all editions in my possession or available at the
Main library in Boise.
The criteria I used above would not include bars that are in locations that have hosted bars of
various names and kinds over the years.
Downtown Boise currently contains many spaces that hosted bars well before prohibition and may
host bars of different names still/again.
In particular, the "10th Street Station" lays claim to being the oldest bar in the city, and they
indeed may be if you allow for bars in the Idanha Hotel that have been there at least as early as
1905 and very likely since the hotel opened in 1901.
As for the exact space in the building, the
for National Register of Historic Places
mentions that "the addition of a bar-lounge in the basement on the Tenth Street side" was a
"subsequent change," but does not included the year.
Details about Age of the Bars
The Cactus, a fine old dive that survives -- and thrives -- amidst many much lavish bars in the heart of downtown Boise,
seems to be most commonly described as the "oldest bar in Boise."
places claim that The Cactus was established in 1936, that it has been in the
same location since then, and that it is the oldest bar in Boise.
All all these claims appear to be incorrect.
Cactus ownership appears to have stated on Yelp at one time that it was established as a cigarette and cigar store in 1936, then became a "full fledged bar" in "the early 40s."
This seems much more likely, although I can find no mention of a "Cactus" anything in Boise city guides before 1950.
In addition, the Cactus did not move to its current location until 1973.
The first Boise "Cactus" listing I was able to identify was the "Cactus Bar" in 1950, located at 805 Main and owned by Tony Subisarretta.
This was not listed in the business section of Polk with the other bars, but it is listed in the "white pages" section.
By 1953 it is listed as the "Cactus Club," at the same address and owned by Tony Uranga.
It is owned by Uranga at least through the 50s, and maintains that form of the name and address until it moves in 1973 to its current location at 517 Main.
It remains a great dive bar, but given no signs of any "Cactus" entity through at least the mid 40s,
and the fact that it has been in its current location since "only" 1973, it seems pretty unlikely to
be the oldest bar in Boise; but it does appear to be, as their web site states, the oldest bar in downtown Boise.
Little Dutch Garden The record here seems considerably more clear.
When I was a kid I rode my bike past this humble little place hundreds of times,
barely noticing the little building tucked at the back of a dirt parking lot in
the middle of a suburban, residential neighborhood.
But it seems highly likely to me that this little place is the oldest operating bar in Boise.
The LDG is consistently listed as a bar in Polk directories beginning in 1941.
It is not included in the 1939 edition and I do not have data for 1940.
But county records indicate that the building was constructed in 1940,
so we can probably safely put its origin at sometime in 1940 or 1941.
The owner listed in 1941 is W.D. Powers, and by 1943 it is Mrs. Vera M. Powers.
Then it is briefly owned by a W.J. Ball around 1950, then for an extended period
by Cal S. Viker.
It appears to have remained in the Viker family for several decades -- in the 1990s
owned by Mrs. Lavonne Viker, who sold it to Scott Hymas in 1995, and he owns it to this day.
The Little Dutch Garden, March 2021
TK Bar The TK Bar, AKA Triangle K, is said to have started as a private club in 1938, and to
have opened to the public "a couple years later."
(As per Bob Hartman in the "History of Boise, Idaho - From 1863" Facebook Group)
Starting as the "Triangle K Club," it was founded by Florance Krall and named for the family cattle brand.
TK was also a branded livery in the horse and carriage era.
It operated at 802 Broadway next to the Boise River for several decades before the Woods family purchased
it from Rex and Pat Shelley and moved the historic building up to Federal Way street in the early 1980s.
A couple decades later the business was moved to a new building on South Eisenman Road, east of the Boise Airport.
44 Club The 44 Club appears in the 1950 Polk directory at the address of "W State RD 9," which
I have presumed is the current address at 4340 West State Street.
It is NOT listed under bars in the 1948 Polk, nor in the 1949 telephone directory, so it seems likely that it was
established sometime around 1949 or 1950, or possibly a bit earlier, (the building was constructed in 1946).
The owner in 1956 was Loren Lukehart.
It went through a period in 80s and 90s known as "Jimmy Jet's 44 Club."
By 1990 it was owned by Joe Karpach Jr., and appea"History of Boise, Idrs to have been owned by Karpach and/or his family since.
Vista Bar The Vista Bar also appears at its current address in the 1950 Polk directory, and also
does NOT appear in the the 1948 Polk or the 1949 telephone directory.
However, as noted, county records indicate that the current building was not constructed until 1962.
By 1956 the owner is listed as Howard L. White.
More recent owners have included G.E. Stoor, Debbie Gaythwaite, Debbie Koch, and Andrew Pittman.
Broadway Bar The Broadway Bar was first listed at an address of 1706, rather than the current 1712,
but since there is currently no other building that could have the 1706 address, I have presumed these are
the same. This building was constructed in 1925.
The Broadway is first listed under bars in the 1957 Polk; but it is listed as "Broadway Cafe and Bar"
under restaurants in the 1956 edition.
It may have been there a few years earlier, but the space was occupied by Ray's Tavern and Cafe until
at least 1950 and there's no listing for the Broadway Bar in the 1953 edition, so I think we can put its
start date at somewhere between 1953 and 1956 inclusive.
In 1956 it was owned by Paul Engle and 1957, then Burl Baker in 1958.
Overland Bar It does not appear in the "yellow pages" section under bars until 1957, but the
1956 Polk Directory white pages list the Overland Bar, owned by Burl Baker, at this address by 1956.
Though the building was constructed in 1954, it is not mentioned anywhere in the 1955 Polk, so I
would estimate that it started sometime in 1955 or 1956.
Later owners have included Henry S Failla and Juanita Kuga in the 1990s, and Jan Odley through the 2000s.
Quinn's Lounge Quinn's Lounge, established by Peter J. Quinn, also appears in Polk Directory white
pages before it begins to be listed under bars or restaurants, and also appears to have had the building
replaced in their old location. Thus it appears to have been established in 1955 or at least by 1956 and
possibly a few years earlier. The current building was constructed in 1965.
Crescent Bar The Crescent No Lawyers Bar and Grill first appears in city guides in 1965,
which confirms the year that owner Jody Morrison states that it opened (although a boisedev.com article claims it was 1963).
The Crescent did, however, move from this location on Orchard to the current one on Franklin in the early 2000s.
Morrison's parents Ray and Hazel Ballard, purchased the bar in 1970, and it has been in the family ever since,
with Jody and her husband Butch purchasing it in 1980.
The "No Lawyers" them arose in 1984, inspired by a conflict with an attorney neighbor over their personal residence.
However, this bar finally closed in 2021.
More Boise Bars with History
In addition to the bars listed above, there are a number of bars and bar locations that have
hosted notable runs of bars over the years.
- 10th Street Station The bar by this name has only been around since the early 1980s, but it claims to be
the oldest in Boise.
This is surely based on the bars that have proceeded it for at least 115 years in the Idanha Hotel.
The Idanha Buffet is listed under saloons at least as early as 1905 and probably from the year the hotel was opened in 1901.
I don't believe the Idanha Buffet was in the exact space currently used by 10th Street, and I haven't found bars listed
between prohibition and the early 1960s, when it became "The Weeds" bar, and later "G J's Lounge."
But at minimum the building carries a long bar history, within a hotel that has hosted the likes of Theodore Roosevelt,
William Jennings Bryant and Clarence Darrow.
- Bar Gernika In addition to being a cornerstone of the Basque section of downtown Boise since 1990,
the building at 202 South Capitol Boulevard is remembered for the Cub Tavern for over four decades.
The Cub opened in 1948 in the former home of the Trade Dollar Bar, and purportedly a Chinese laundry and Chinese
restaurant before that.
Constructed in 1905, the building was eventually renovated by Dan Ansotegui into the Gernika Basque Pub.
Neon sign from the old Cub Tavern in Boise
(Idaho Statesman photo)
- Suds Tavern It is not included in the lists above due to the official name changing, but
the current location of Suds Tavern has been a bar since 1947.
The location hosted businesses run by the Bonner and Morrision family from 1936,
when the Bonners established a market there, until 1990 when Jim and Wilma Bonner-Morrison sold the long-running bar.
There has been a bar there since the Morrison's bought the place from Wilma's parents in 1947 and converted it to the
Crooked Bar Tavern.
Chris Bhavin notes that her grandfather was prohibited from officially using the "Suds" name when the bar was established
because it implied that the bar sold hard spirits.
The Morrisons sold it in 1990 to Scott Burney, who officially re-branded it to "The Suds."
Sign for the Crooked Bar Tavern in 2011 (now refurbished and updated to "Suds")
- The Bouquet There has been a Bouquet Bar on Main Street in Boise since 1906, and it would certainly be the oldest
of Boise bars if one allowed for different buildings and locations, as the bar traveled from 711 W Main before prohibition,
to 821 Main during prohibition and several decades after, to eventually 1010 Main in the old Avery Hotel Building.
But alas, the Bouquet has now been closed for several years, with plans to refashion the space as "The Avery."
- Pengilly's Saloon Pengilly's has been around only since the late 1970s, but it is within the 1892 Spiegel Building,
contains a beautiful "Reserve" model antique Brunswick bar, and features vintage photographs and decor.
Interior of Pengilly's Saloon, Boise
If you have any corrections, additions, or other information on Seattle area bars built before 1950,
please e-mail to email@example.com