Oldest Bars in Washington State

Answering the question "What is the oldest bar in Washington state?" requires establishing some fairly arbitrary definitions of what constitutes a single bar. Must the name have been always the same or similar? (How similar?) Is it the same bar if it changed locations or totally reconstructed the building on that location? If it moved the actual building? Is it the same bar if it was not continuously a bar? (E.g. during prohibition in Washington state?) And of course this is not to mention the difficulties in finding comprehensive and reliable data on the history of bars.

With that in mind, this page attempts to answer the question using a few different sets of criteria, and the best information I can find from primary sources, historical notes, and the bars themselves. Unlike my list of Seattle's oldest bars, where I have fairly high confidence that I have not entirely missed any very old bars (as I have basically been to every bar in the city), it is quite likely that I am missing a few of the oldest bars in Washington state. I have a fair degree of confidence that I have identified the very oldest, but I assume that there are a number of others from the very early 20th century and probably the late 19th still waiting for me to discover them. I would would very much appreciate any additional information anyone can provide related to the list (please use my email in the image to the left).

-- Pete


Oldest Bar in Washington Under One Name, in One Building

1890 or earlier - The Exchange Tavern, Spanaway and Merchant's Cafe, Seattle - Merchant's Cafe can be conclusively dated to 1890 in the current location, since that is the year construction of the buiding was completed (in the wake of the Great Seattle Fire in 1889), and it can be found listed under the name at its current address in 1890 newspapers. I have not seen such definite primary sources for The Exchange, but Jean Sensel, a previous owner of the bar, writes "I found original sales documents for all the land east of Spanway Lake by a development company that platted the area as Lake Park. The parcel where the Exchange sits is the only one that was not in the sale, lending credence to the recollection of older residents that the tavern was in place when the Lake Park Land, Railway, and Improvement Company bought the properties around it in 1889, or at the latest, when the railway was completed in 1890, the Exchange was in place." (personal correspondence, Sep 6, 2015)

Others:
1897? - The Chester Club, South Bend
1898 - The Brick, Roslyn
1898 - The Inn / Old Inn, Snohomish
1901 or earlier - Queen City Saloon/Tavern/Grill, Seattle
1901 - Frosty's Tavern, Napavine
1901 - Melrose Grill, Renton
1902 - The J&M, Seattle
1903 - The Virginia Inn, Seattle
1904 - Headquarters Tavern, Mineral
1908 - The Olympic Club, Centralia
1910 - Triangle Pub, Seattle
1912 - Slim's Tavern, Lind


Oldest Bar in Washington Under One Name, Varying Locations

Horseshoe Cafe, Bellingham - 1886 The Horseshoe Cafe in Bellingham has been in its current location since 1958. However, it traces its history under that name through previous locations since 1886. The Horseshoe claims it is Washington's longest continuously operating cafe and cocktail lounge, and it may be in some sense, as this requires a peculiar interpretation of "continuously," at least from the bar perspective. Whatcom County voted itself dry by 1910. The Horseshoe claims that the country remaind dry long after federal prohibition was overturned and that they received the first post-prohibition bar license in the county in 1950. However city guides list several beer parlors in Bellingham by the mid 30s, so perhaps this is some memory related to selling liquor by the glass, which was only re-legalized for some institutions in Washington in 1948? You can judge for yourself whether or not one should overlook prohibition years and allow a claim to a "continuously" operating bar that admits a 40 year gap, and whether keeping some basic version of one name should be required to count as one bar. But in any case the Horseshoe does appear to be able to trace its origin under its current name further back than any other restaurant in the state, and it may well be able to do the same as a bar.


Oldest Bar in Washington in One Building, Varying Names

Oak Harbor Tavern, Oak Harbor - 1852-56 The current Oak Harbor Tavern appears to reside in a building that was established as a saloon and store by sea Captain Edward Barrington circa 1852 and at least by 1856. It was later dragged across the street to its current location. It appears to have taken the name "Oak Harbor Tavern" in 1939 (previously Forner's Tavern). Thus this is the physical structure that has been a bar for the longest time in the state of Washington and by a considerable measure -- at least 26 years.

Others:
1882 - Bluebird Inn, Bickleton
1888 - Kuk's Tavern, Northport
1888? - The Roslyn Roadhouse, Roslyn
1890 - Volume, Seattle
1891 - Couleegan's, Coulee City
1893 - City Hall Saloon, Cumberland
1894 - Kelly's Restaurant and Lounge, Newport
1890s - Frontier Tavern, Ellensburg
1898 - Conor Byrne, Seattle
1898 - The Central Saloon, Seattle
1898 - Percy's, Seattle


Other Bars in Very Old Bar Locations

If we consider a physical location, and not just a particular building, then we must move a number of bars up these lists:


Various Claims of "Oldest" Bars in Washington

There are quite a few bars that claim to be the oldest in the state in one form or another, and as I mention above, the definition and age of a bar are not simple questions, so it is not impossible for multiple such claims to be true by certain criteria. At other times the claims appear to be merely hearsay, or a lack of knowledge of some of the other old bars in existence. Below is my assessment of some of these claims given the best information I can find. If I misinterpret the claim or am lacking certain data, I would much appreciate being informed of this.


List of Oldest Bars in Washington State

I have included here many bars across the state that I believe opened in the 1930s (or earlier). However, I have not included the 20 or so bars in Seattle that opened during the 30s -- for a list of those see my page on Seattle's Oldest Bars.

"Name" = When established as a bar under (something similar to) the current name; "Build" = When a bar was first established in the current building; "Loc" = When a bar was first established in the current location (possibly in building that has been replaced); "OE" = "Or Earlier," commonly used for the earliest year I find a bar listed in primary sources without knowing it's actual date of establishment

NameBuildLocBarNotes
1878?1878?1930s?Carbonado Saloon, Carbonado It's tough to find historical information on the Carbonado Saloon, and I have not included it in the lists above because the dates are especially speculative. But it is believed that the building was constructed in 1878 and later moved to its current location. When exactly it first hosted a bar, at some point called the "Carbonado Canteen," is also unclear. The space has served as a barber shop, post office, and general store. It is believed to have become a bar again at some point in the 1930s. In any case, it is a fine old place and the current owners have a real interest in local history, and include many old photos and artifacts in the bar.
188619581958Horseshoe Cafe, Bellingham The Horseshoe Cafe traces it's history under the Horseshoe name back to 1886. It moved into its current location in 1958. This location hosted other bars at least as far back as 1903 (The Oxford Bar) and probably earlier. The history of the Horseshoe before moving to 113 E Holly is a bit convoluted. I have found "Horse Shoe" bars listed at 102 E Holly in 1903, at 914 Harris Ave in 1905, and at 106 E Holly in 1909.
189018901890Merchants, Seattle Merchants was built in 1889-1890 right after the Fire of 1889.
1891?19081891Olympic Club, Centralia This has been called the "second oldest saloon in Washington State," and perhaps it is in terms of a bar under its current name, although not necessarily in the current building for all of that time. The Olympic Club and Micro Brewery is located in a landmark building at 112 North Tower Avenue, Centralia. Originally built in 1891, the saloon was rebuilt after a fire in 1908. Original details include a sign at the entrance which reads "Women's patronage not solicited."
1892 OE19021902The J&M, Seattle The J&M claims to be "Seattle's Oldest Bar" and traces its origin to 1889. However, this seems to be based strictly on the construction date of the J&H Hotel, the building where it now resides, and where there was no bar in 1889. The site further states that owners Jamieson and McFarland "opened for business in Pioneer Square in 1892." This too seems dubious, as neither Jamieson nor McFarland are listed as saloon owners in the 1895, 1898 or 1899 Polk directories. They appear first in the 1900 directory at 207 1st Ave S, i.e. the current location of the Central Saloon. Some historical sources have stated that they moved to their current location in 1902, which seems generally compatible with Polk guides from around that time, which list it at the 207 address in the 1900 though 1902 editions, then list Jamieson and McFarland at both the 207 and 201 (current J&M) addresses in 1903 (as well as a third location at 115 Washington), and the 201 address for the next couple years. By 1907 the location is listed as owned by "Jamieson and Moffett" with a McFarland Cafe appearing at 1222 2nd Ave and later at 922 1st Ave (the buildings from the time at both locations have since been demolished). Thus I would estimate that the J&M began -- in the sense of its original owners starting the business -- in 1900 or possibly 1899; and began in its current location in 1902. Given how owners buy and sell various bars, often with no visibility to bargoers, I believe it makes most sense to count only the time in its current location in the age of a bar, and thus I date it to 1902. But by any reckoning I do not see a justification for dating it earlier than Merchants, which began business with its current name and location in 1890.
189318931893Exchange Tavern, Spanaway The Exchange Tavern is said to have been constructed in 1893 and run as a bar since then, although officially a general store during state-wide and then federal prohibition. It and the building that was moved after serving as the adjacent "Wine Room" for lady guests were the only two buildings that survived the 1922 fire that destroyed what was then the business district of town, and is now a little used road a few blocks from Pacific Ave.
1897?1897?1897?The Chester Club, South Bend Various sources report the Chester Club in South Bend as founded by Oscar Chester in 1897, although I have not seen any primary sources to support this and the only Oscar Chester I could find in the area in census records was born in 1889 (and presumably unlikely to establish a saloon at age 8).
189818981898The Brick, Roslyn In 1889, after an 1888 fire destroyed most of the Roslyn business section, the city rebuilt the downtown section in the western frontier style that we see today, and John Buffo and Peter Giovanni opened a tavern at 1 Pennsylvania Street in Roslyn. In 1898, the tavern was rebuilt out of 45,000 bricks and took the name "The Brick." The exterior of the building was used for shots of the fictitious tavern of the same name in the television show Northern Exposure.
189818981898Old Inn Tavern, Snohomish I have not seen any primary sources on the Old Inn except for a 1913 newspaper article on a shooting there. But various accounts date it back to 1898 as a bar, when it was named the "Inn Saloon," becoming the "Old Inn Tavern" at some point in the 1940s. The building is said to be constructed in 1889. (Notes and materials from current owner Don.) Thus this appears to be one of the three oldest bars in the state, along with Merchants and The Brick, in terms of places more or less continually operating under basically the same name.
18981933?1898Joe's Place, Bucoda Joe's Place has been family operated since it was established by Joe Farrington in 1898. The original building burned down during prohibition (in 1919). The current building is the only one in Bucoda to have survived a great fire in 1930. The original walnut back bar was consumed in yet another fire during the 50s, but the matching original front counter remains. Joe's was perhaps a working bar through prohibition, possibly taking advantage of the trap door in the floor behind the bar, which was also used in lieu of refrigeration. In any case, it seems likely that it resumed as a licenses bar very soon after prohibition, so I have guessed that the bar in the current building dates back to Dec. 1933.
19001990?1990?Old Edison Inn, Edison If you count an institution that has moved, one of the oldest in the state is the Old Edison Inn, which is said to have been started in 1900, and the one of four Edison saloons to survive prohibition. It has apparently moved twice after that, the last time some year (?) after 1978.
1901 OE1901?1890 OEQueen City Grill, Seattle Dating the Queen City Grill is somewhat problematic. There were bars at this address at least since 1890 (under Alexander Meister, in the Polk city guide), and "Queen City Saloon" appears by 1901. However, I have not been able to ascertain the date of the current brick building, which replaced the wooden structure at the same address and which at least briefly housed the Queen City Saloon (there is an undated picture of this in the restaurant). King County parcel info lists the build date as 1900, but this was often used as a shorthand for anything 1900 or earlier. Other articles have listed the construction date as 1901 and 1909. Since it has been the Queen City Saloon/Lunchroom/Tavern/Grill since at least 1901, I currently date the bar back to that year. In 1987 the current owners converted the divey tavern into an upscale restaurant (which still has prominent bar).
190119011901Melrose Grill According to materials from the current owners and supported at least approximately by various photos in the bar itself, the current Melrose Grill was built and opened in 1901. It included a saloon from the beginning, retaining the original back bar (shipped around Cape Horn from Europe) to this day, and it appears to have included a bar ever since with the exception of prohibition when it continued as a pool room, card room, and soda parlor. The structure was originally three stories but a fire in 1928 destroyed the upper floors and a portion of the ground floor, mercifully sparing the saloon.
190119011901Frosty's Tavern, Napavine The bartender told us that Frosty's has been a bar in its current location and with the name Frosty's since 1901. I have not seen any primary sources verifying this, but they have liquor licenses going back to at least 1903 framed right on the wall.
1902???Opal, Tacoma I have not found a reliable dating of the establishment of this bar and have read dates of the Opal Saloon starting here in 1906 and 1912. There is an old photo of the saloon behind the bar that was subsequently labeled "1902," but this shows the Opal in the building just north of the old Edison Soft Drink Parlor (constructed c. 1900), an address that is now 5220. The Dec 31 1915 issue of the Tacoma Times, which includes comments from virtually all bar owners in town on what they planned to do when statewide prohibition went into effect Jan 1, 2016 puts the Opal Saloon at the current 5226 address by then, and quotes owner Frank Yorkpheimer saying, "I am going to put in a pool table and will seel near beer and lunches."
1902?1902?1902?Town Bar and Grill, Mansfield The sign for the Town Bar and Grill in tiny Mansfield says that it was established in 1902 and one of the owners told me that the only previous name it had was the Town Tavern. It's unlikely that the name "Tavern" dates back to 1902, so I am somewhat dubious about the "Town" name going back that far as well, but will list it here until I can find some additional information.
190319031903The Virginia Inn, Seattle Wikipedia dates the Virginia Inn to "approximately 1908,", but the bar's web site claims they were established 1903. The building was constructed in 1901 and and I have found a bar listed in Polk guides at this address, owned by William Herdmon, from at least 1907 to 1913, so until I see a starting date from a primary source or historian, 1903 seems most likely.
190419041904Headquarters Tavern, Mineral I've found virtually nothing on the history of the Headquarters Tavern, located in tiny Mineral, WA. But the sign over the door and the understanding of at least some of the locals is that it has been around since 1904, in the current building, under the current name, and with the the current ornate back bar.
19041934 OE1904Rainier Bar and Grill, Enumclaw The Facebook page for the Rainier Bar and Grill claims that the location hosted the Rainier Wine House as far back as 1904, and the Bohemian Bar shortly after that, and features a photograph of a wooden building featuring both names. The current brick structure was built during state-wide prohibition in 1917. Wally Duchateau writes in the Enumclaw Courier Herald that it was a "a speakeasy in the 1920s, a card room in the 1930s and 40s and a favorite watering hole for loggers in the 1950s." However, it is listed as the "Rainier Bar" already in the 1934 Sigrist city guide, so it was likely a licensed bar very soon after the Beer and Wine Revenue Act took effect in April 1933.
191019101910H&H Tavern, Issaquah Began as a tavern in 1910. Building constructed in 1890s, originally Schomber's Bakery
191019101910Triangle Pub, Seattle The quirky "Flatiron" building was completed in 1910 at the corner of Railroad Way and 1st Avenue S. (formerly "Commercial St.") and housed the Triangle Hotel and Bar. The bottom floor of the 56'x48'x28' structure continued to host a bar until 1929, when it became a Western Union branch office, sending its messages to the Cherry Street headquarters via brass pneumatic tubes (which I am told can still be seen on the rare days that the basement space is open). Western Union departed in 1954 and the space resumed being a tavern. The hotel above, which was a brothel from the 20s until the end of WWII, originally had 8 small rooms, but now holds 2 apartments. It is said to have once been featured in Ripley's Believe It or Not as the smallest hotel west of the Rockies.
1910?1910?1910?Town Bar and Grill, Mansfield This one is very highly speculative: The folks at the Town Bar and Grill in Mansfield, WA claim that he bar has been around since 1902, and one told me that it was previously the "Town Tavern," and was known by that all the way back to 1902. I haven't seen any confirmation of these facts, and in fact Douglas Country tax records date the building to 1910. And the name "tavern" was rarely used in the years before prohibition ("saloon" would have been more likely). But 1910 would have been shortly after the railroad came to town, and perhaps there was a bar in this location in a previous building. I am looking for more information.
191219121912Slim's, Lind I have seen no primary sources or historical research that Slim's dates back to 1912, but I do have this from Floyd "Skip" Thompson, who has owned the place for 40 years and purchased it from the family of Slim Nichols. There are photos on the walls of Skip, Slim and other scenes from Lind history.
1914 OE1933?1933?Antlers, Twisp I do not have good data on how long ago there was an "Antlers" bar in Twisp, nor how soon after prohibition it was a bar again. But there is a picture on the wall of the current location that says it is Antlers in 1914. The current Antlers structure was built in 1924 (during Prohibition), on the site of the Old Twisp Motel after fire destroyed much of downtown.
1915 OE1915 OE1915 OEArnie's Horseshoe, Ellensburg I do not know how old the Horseshoe is, but a 1970 article in the Ellensburg Daily Record describes it as being sold to a new owner in 1918 "the year before prohibition." Given that it appears to have been a bar before prohibition, I think it is reasonable to guess that it dates back to at least 1915.
193318921892The Central Saloon, Seattle Originally Watson Bros. Famous Restaurant, est. in 1892, then the “Seattle Bar” in 1901, it has been the “Central" Cafe/Saloon/Lunchroom/Tavern from 1919 until today. Of course 1919 would have been during prohibition in Washington state, and thus this place could not have been officially a bar until 1933 at the earliest. The Central claims to be "Seattle's oldest Saloon." This claim would seem to refer not to how long there has been a bar there but rather being the oldest extant Seattle bar allowed to use the word "saloon" in their name (the term was banned, along with "bar" and "barroom" by the "Steele Act" in 1934).
193319331933Bethel Saloon, Port Orchard The web site for the Bethel Saloon notes that it because a tavern in 1933, right after prohibition, and "converted to a bar" in the 1940s (by which I presume means selling hard liquor?). The main bar is now in a portion which used to be a general store (I spoke to locals who recalled this clearly), and the old wood floor on the old bar side sags pleasantly as you walk around. "The building was one of the nation's first official Texaco Gasoline Service Stations in the late 1920's. It's also served as a general store, cafe, dry cleaners and pottery shop." There are several old photos of the place in the bar.
19331890s1890sThe Brown Lantern, Anacortes The Brown Lantern was establish just after prohibition in 1933, but the building is said to have been constructed in the 1890s and to have housed an establishment known as "The Anchorage."
193319251919Porter Saloon, Porter, WA AKA "Porter Creek Saloon," the only bar between Oakville and Elma has been around for a very long time, but its beginnings are unclear. Kay Lee, the current owner, believes it was established, as the "Porter Saloon," in 1919 and that it is the "second oldest bar in the state of Washington." But that would have been during statewide prohibition -- so it seems unlikely that it would have been established with "Saloon" in the name in that period (let alone a liquor license). And numerous bars across the state make the claim to being the first or second liquor license after prohibition. A newspaper article in the bar contains an interview with previous owner Opal Butterfield, who says she purchased the place with her husband in 1935. Wikipedia says that "Porter Saloon was re-built" in 1925, a year after a fire destroyed it and much of the town. The Wikipedia article adds that "When it re-opened in 1933 following the repeal of Prohibition, it was one of the first establishments to receive a liquor license in the State of Washington," but contains no references. Thus with no primary references, my best guess from what I've found so far is that there was some kind of business built here in 1919, it burned down in 1924, and was rebuilt in 1925, it became a bar in Dec. 1933 (still probably not with "Saloon" in the name, as it could not yet legally serve hard liquor). It has been the Porter Saloon for many years, and in the last few years has had a quite remarkable remodel by Ms. Lee.
193319331933Alger Bar and Grill, Alger The Alger Bar and Grill, formerly the Alger Tavern, claims to have been running from the current location since 1933. The building does not anywhere appear that old, but county tax records indicate that it was built in 1915, and we were informed it has has various extensions over the years.
193319331933The Club, Winlock The Club claims to have been established in 1933. The building was constructed in 1924.
193319331933The Cabin, Shoreline Built in 1927 and said to have received one of the first five or six post-prohibition liquor licenses in the state of Washington in 1933, it is now the oldest continually running business in Shoreline. The building was rolled across the street on logs to its current location, with the logs remaining under the structure to this day, resulting in the a V-shaped crook in the middle of the floor and bar.
1933?1933?1933?The Checkerboard Bar, Spokane The Checkerboard is one of the bars claiming to have the oldest continuous liquor license in the state of Washington. These claims are virtually impossible to document (e.g. the state liquor board does not track age of licenses), and I have yet to find primary evidence that the bar existed before 1937. E.g. it is not listed in either the Polk Guide of 1934 nor the Spokane telephone directory of 1935 (nor any other bar at the address). But the building has been there since 1928, so it's possible.
1933?1933?1933?Corner Pub, Bow Said to be established in 1928 and a bar shortly after prohibition
1933?1933?1933?Five Point, Seattle The Five Point opened as a restaurant during prohibition in 1929, and presumably was a bar very soon after prohibition ended.
1933?1933?1933?Marko's Place, Roslyn The Marko's sign says that it was established during prohibition, in 1931, and while it is unclear when it became a legal bar, it seems highly likely that this was shortly after the federal Beer and Wine Revenue Act took effect in April 1933. Two daughters of founder Marko Korich, Mary and Eva, have left audio recordings describing their father buying the place around the start of the decade and selling wine made in the basement as well as bootleg whiskey there through prohibition. While at the bar I also chatted with Alex, now 84, who remembered sneaking into the bar when he was 11-- i.e. in 1939. The 1937 Polk Guide lists a bar owned by Marko Korich, but at the address of 13 1st N. I'm fairly confident this was the same building, because we already know that Roslyn changed the street numbering scheme along this street, as The Brick, now listed at 100, was listed at 1 in the 1930s and 40s. In addition, Marko's daughters allude to the bar being in the same building the entire time. The sisters also mention that Marko purchased the bar from a Mr. Bruno, and a 1913 Polk Guide lists a bar owned by Bruno & Filberto. This listing does not include an address, but it is intriguing to consider whether it is the same location.
1933?1933?1933?The Mecca, Seattle The Mecca was opened as a restaurant in 1930 and presumably a bar very soon after prohibition ended
1933?1933?1933?Oasis Tavern, Skamokawa The Oasis Tavern was closed for a few years recently after long-time owner Wanda Rudy passed away in 2008, but was very substantially remodeled and reopened in Sep. 2012. The current owners have heard that it is "the second oldest in the state," and that it opened shortly after prohibition. Thus my guess is that it opened in December 1933.
1933?1933?1933?Corner Pub, Bow Said to be established in 1928 and a bar shortly after prohibition
193419341934Club Crow, Cashmere Some folks have referred to Club Crow as the "oldest still operating bar in the State of Washington." Lots of bars make this sort of claim in one fashion or another, and it's hard to square the Crow's claim with a number of other bars that have been (legally) operating since shortly after prohibition ended (Dec 5, 1933), let alone the handful of bars that were in operation before prohibition. But it is quite old -- established as a pool hall, tobacco shop, and barbershop in 1918, and as a tavern in 1934, apparently called "The Club." The original owner of the tavern, Stillman Miller, operated the club until 1978.
193419341934Engels Pub, Edmonds "The last of its kind, Engel's Pub was established in 1934 as one of the original pubs in downtown Edmonds. When Prohibition ended in late 1933, the Engel Family quickly recognized an unfilled need and the pub was opened in early 1934. Operated by the founding Engel family until 1981, the pub grew up along with the City of Edmonds, an to this day is the longest continually operating business in within the City, and still operates under the original liquor license, which is the 2nd oldest liquor license in the State of Washington." (Engel's Facebook site)
193419341934Beach Tavern, Tacoma The Beach Tavern at Titlow Beach is said to have been established in mid-1934.
193419341934Logs Inn, B Z Corner, WA The Logs In claims to have been established in 1934.
1934?19081908The Dog House, Langley This bar closed in June 2008, but I am leaving it listed for now as I have heard that it may be re-opening. Built in 1908 as the Olympic Club, said to be used informally as a bar, converted to The Dog House Tavern soon after prohibition. It is the only building in Langley on the National Register of Historic Places.
1934?1934?1884 OEThe Spar, Tacoma Site of the Tacoma Bar which is now commonly said to have been established in 1884, but which some sources date back to 1872. which was torn down in 1916. Current building constructed in 1917, became "The Spar" in the 1920s, and was a bar again right after prohibition.
1934?1934?1934?The Windmill, Wenatchee It's difficult to discern when the Windmill, constructed in Wenatchee in 1931, became a legal bar, but it appears to be shortly after prohibition. From the web site: "In its early years, The Windmill was a typical “road house” of its time as it was on the northwest fringe of Wenatchee. It was said to have been frequented by counterfeiters and legend has it that the upstairs room was a meeting place for bootleggers. The Windmill had gained a “late night” reputation. Following the repeal of prohibition, The Windmill was granted an unusual state liquor license allowing the sale of unopened containers “to go”. This was evidently due to the operators practice of putting a bottle of beer in sack lunches made for State Highway Department Road Crews. The Highway Department remains our neighbor today just to the north of our building."
1935 OE1935 OE1935 OEGolden West Tavern, Tacoma The Golden West or Golden West Tavern begins appearing in city guides at this address in 1935.
1935 OE1935 OE1935 OEMt. Si Tavern, North Bend The Facebook page for this bar puts the start date at 1923, but it would not have been "Mt. Si Tavern" during Prohibition. The bar itself contains old photographs of what appears to be the current building, despite going through various modifications, and these photos are labeled "1935" and "1938." The building is flat-roofed and smaller in the first photo, and has a a no-longer present porch in the second, but a few apparent consistencies in the structure and landmarks tend to confirm that this is the current structure. It may well have become a legal bar very shortly after prohibition (Dec. 1933?).
1935 OE1939 OE1935 OEMountain Tavern, Tacoma Pierce County tax records list this building as having been constructed in 1939. However, city guides show a Mountain Tavern at this address at least as far back as 1935.
1936 OE1936 OE1936 OEBoots Tavern, Black Diamond Hanging in the bar there is a King County Assessor photograph of the Boots Tavern labeled 1939. JoAnne M. of the Black Diamond Historical Society informed me that portions of the buildings in this area were constructed in 1918, 1936 (at least the front portion of the current tavern), and 1939. King County tax records confirm that the tavern building was constructed in 1936. In "Black Diamond: Mining the Memories" Boots himself, along with his brother Emilio, recall building the place, starting to seek a license in 1935 and obtaining it a year later.
1936?19071907Jules Maes, Seattle Jules Maes features signs that prominently claim "Since 1888," and local newspapers have refered to Jules Maes himself working there in 1888. This would make Jules the oldest bar in the current Seattle city limits (the Georgetown area was annexed by Seattle March 29, 1910) and either the oldest or second oldest in Washington state, depending on you count. However my research indicates that these claims are not accurate. First, the building at 5919 Airport Way was not constructed until 1898. According to the most comprehensive history I could find, the building was first a saloon in 1907. Second, it was not leased to Jules Maes until 1936. Jules attended and/or owned other bars in the area in the early 1900s, but not earlier. His bar was located at 5953 Airport Way in 1934, before moving into the current building in 1936 (the 5953 location then became the "Georgetown Tavern" from at least 1939 into the early 2000s.)
1939c1852?Oak Harbor Tavern, Oak Harbor The current Oak Harbor Tavern appears to reside in a building that was established as a saloon and store by sea Captain Edward Barrington circa 1852 and at least by 1856. It was later dragged across the street to its current location. It took the name "Oak Harbor Tavern" in 1939 (previously Forner's Tavern). Thus if one allows name changes over the years as a single "bar," this is the oldest bar in Washington state by considerable measure -- at least 26 years. (One source is historical author Peggy Darst Townsdin, who is the great, great grand-daughter of Capt. Barrington.)
194020132013Von's 1000 Spirits Seattle Von's has only been in its current location since 2013, and has been called "Von's" only since 1940. However, I include it here because through several changes of location it has been a continuously operating restaurant (and bar?) since being established as Rippes in 1904.
1960 OE1940s OE1940s OEThe Log Cabin, Shelton The Log Cabin in Shelton says "Since 1923" and it appears to have been some kind of business since then, but it is unclear when it first hosted a bar and when it became known was the Log Cabin. It was previously the Ray Mitchell Tavern in the 30s and/or 40s. It would not have been a (legal) tavern in 1923, as this was in the midst of prohibition. It became the Log Cabin sometime before 1960.
196719051905Hattie's Hat, Seattle This is said to have first been established as the Old Home Saloon and appears to have remained that or just "The Old Home" through prohibition. In the 1950s, Gus and Pat Malmgren renamed it "Malmen's Fine Foods" (it retained a bar), and it was re-named Hattie's Hat sometime around 1967.
1972 OE1972 OE1972 OEThree Fingered Jack's, Winthrop Three-Fingered Jacks does not appear to be as old as most the bars on this list, but is included here because it includes signs proclaiming it "Washington state's oldest running saloon." A contact with the bar informed me that this is because they sued the state for the right to serve spirits, and "saloon" has traditionally been associated with liquor, not just beer and wine. However, it appears to me that this story has evolved from a 1972 suit that was actually over the right to put the word "saloon" on its sign. (This was verified for me by an old customer.) However, Jack's was preceded in this space by the Winthrop Billiard Parlor, which I presume was a bar and may well have a bar history that runs well before the current name.
197819081908Boots and Saddles Saloon, Ione The Boots and Saddles is very evidently a very old bar, with great, old, uneven, wooden floors. The bartender there told me that it has been named the Boots and Saddles since 1978 and that it has housed a bar back to 1908.
198019331933Doc's Tavern, Ocean Park According to owner Don Sheldon Doc's can track its lineage in its current buliding back to July 4, 1933 (see his history quoted here). However, the current name dates back to 1980 and the preceding bar was in another location for the years 1936-1948. Nevertheless, the business appears to have had a remarkable total of three owners dating back from now to 1933.
1988?19381938Toby's Tavern, Coupeville This place has been "Toby's" since sometime between the mid 70s and late 80s (1988?), but it has been a bar since 1938. The construction date of the building is unknown, but at least a portion of it goes back to at least 1890, with various estimates ranging from 1869 to 1875. It is one of a handful of buildings built by John Alexander S. Robertson in the 19th century which are still in use today. The back bar dates back to the 19th century, and was moved to its current location in 1943, when Vique Sealey purchased the place and moved the bar there from his Central Hotel location across the street, which had been seriously damaged by fire. The back bar had been used in the Ft. Casey Officers Club in the early 20th century, and stored at Ft. Worden during prohibition. The business was Sealey's Tavern until at least in the early 70s.
c199318981898Conor Byrne, Seattle The Owl appears to have been founded in 1898, and the Ballard Chamber of Commerce calls this the "oldest continually operating drinking establishment west of the Mississippi." Whether they date that through prohibition or not, it's difficult to see how this could be true, given some of the other bars mentioned here, let alone places like "The Saloon" and "Little Shamrock" in San Francisco. But Conor Byrne continues an old and fine tradition of music in this space in Ballard.
199519081908Landmark Tavern, Tenino Although the "Landmark Tavern" has only been here since around 1995, this location has hosted a bar since at least 1909 and probably 1908, the year it was built by Columbia Brewery of Tacoma. By 1909 it was known as "Lee's Place," owned by Lee Waddell. It was apparently the "Quarry Bar" at some later point, and then "Anderson's Tavern" for many years. It is said to have been a pool hall and soda fountain during Prohibition, suspected of being a speakeasy for local quarrymen, as the boom years of the local sandstone quarry, which supported 12 bars before prohibition, continued into the 20s. I have not determined how soon it became a legal bar after prohibition. Assuming there was no "local option" in place, one suspects they would have been licensed very shortly after the Beer and Wine Revenue Act took effect April 7, 1933. But the first mention of "Anderson's Tavern" I can find in the limited city guide data I have is in 1959. Anderson's Tavern continues to show up in Polk Guides and telephone directories up until 1992. "LJ's Place" is listed at the address in '93 and '94, and finally "The Landmark" beginning in 1995. (Sources include Joy Orth, Tenino Independent, and city councilman Wayne Fournier, great great nephew of Lee Waddell, personal correspondence)
199719131890sOlympic Club, Centralia Originally the Oxford Hotel, the Olympic Club was renamed when it was acquired by the McMennamin's chain, and is said to look very close to what it did after a major reconstruction and remodel in 1913. It was originally built in the 1890s and rebuilt in 1908 after fire destroyed most the buildings on the block.
200219141907Barrel House, Yakima There has been a bar in this location since at least 1907, and it has been called "The Barrel House," as it is now, off and on since at least 1914, the year that the previous wooden structure was replaced by the current brick building. In 1907 it was the "Jean B. Dazet and Company Saloon," and it was Mr. Dazet who first named it The Barrel House, which it appears to have remained that through prohibition, converting to a billard room and soft drink hall, by which time it was owned by William Harrington It was briefly renamed "Harrington's," in the late 30s, but returned to Barrel House. After WWII, it was renamed the Olympia Tavern, and appears to have been out of business for much the 1960s. It was reopened in 1970 as the "Blue Banjo" by James and Norma Chapman, and gained a reputation as the roughest bar in the roughest part of Yakima until it closed in 2001. In 2002 it was reopened as the current Barrel House, in a substantially more clean, upscale form.
20051934 OE1934 OEThe Castle, Sedro-Woolley "F.A. Hegg opened a grocery on the lot, the first Woolley grocery store, in about 1895. A 1939 history of the town in the Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times notes that a man named C.T. Mescher opened the Vienna Bakery there in 1904.... "The B&A Tavern (southwest corner of present Metcalf and State streets) was the first tavern licensed in town, in December 1933 or January 1934. Soon afterwards the present Castle was opened by Clyde Minkler as the Minkler Tavern.... The Castle closed its doors in January 2005 and was then reopened on April 22 that year by brothers Jim and Jerry Meiers, former owners of the Four Aces Tavern. They operated under a number of new names from Cues & Brews to the most recent, Dusty's." (SkagitRiverJournal)
200718911891Couleegan's, Coulee City Couleegan's was established here in 2007, but bars appear to have been in this building for well over 100 years. I have not found any dates from historians or primary sources, but in the bar itself there is an old photo labeled "Madden and Sargent's Saloon, Coulee City 1891," and said by the bartender to be in this building. It could not have been much older than that because Coulee City was platted and built in the Spring/Summer of 1890. It also would also have had a longer interruption of service as a legal bar than some bars of comparable age across the state, as the city apparently voted itself dry in 1908, and remained that way until the end of federal prohibition.
200719131913The Matador, Redmond Although The Matador itself was established here only in 2007, and the building has hosted non-bars for most of its history, it does also have a lineage as one of the older bar spaces in the state. The building was constructed in 1913 and first hosted the Bill Brown Saloon for three years until Washington state pass prohibition.
200919101890sMestizo, Sedro-Woolley "This is most likely the oldest building in Skagit County that has always been dedicated to serving liquor....James Wilson opened the Wilson Saloon when the Gateway opened in the summer of 1910.... As a saloon, then tavern, then cocktail lounge, it has dispensed hospitality, spirits, beer, wine and food. Except, or course, during Prohibition, when "wink wink" not a drop of liquor was available.... A saloon had been located on the present site of Mestizo since the early '90s, when it was one of the first licensed drinking establishments in Woolley. When the miners began returning, the saloon was soon renamed the Klondike.... [and later The Schooner] On that blessed day in 1934 or maybe 1935, when the bar reopened, in the Wixson Club the 3.2 percent beer flowed" (Skagit River Journal)
201220122012Stanwood Hotel and Saloon, Stanwood I can place the date of the first Stanwood Hotel bar with no more precision than "somewhere between 1890 and 2012." This historic hotel was recently re-opened with a Saloon. I do not know how far back there was a bar here, but it was a hotel at least as far back as 1890. It had been dated back to 1894, but a piece of 1891 newspaper found in the walls of a local cabin and discussing local visitors, shows that it dates back to at least 1890.
201218901890Volume, Seattle While it seems absurd to attribute any great age to the "ultra-lounge" just recently opened up in this space, they are operating in what is surely the most storied, historical bar space in Seattle. The basement space is a remaining portion of the People's Theater, constructed in 1890, and the most notorious of Seattle's 19th century "box houses." In these saloons with card rooms and theaters, women performers would serve drinks in between their stage acts, and if a patron was feeling particularly generous, the women would accompany them to curtained off boxes for more personalized services. The People's Theater was eventually run by John Considine (AKA "Boss Sport"), who would battle it out for Seattle's theater and gambling audiences with such rivals as Alexander Pantages and Wyatt Earp (yes, THAT Wyatt Earp, who owned the Union Club on the next block). He also battled Seattle Chief of Police William L. Meredith, a feud that culminated in a shootout in a drug store on 2nd and Yesler that left Meredith dead. Considine would go on to establish theaters across the west and midwest, create the first popularly-priced vaudeville chain in the world*, co-found the Fraternal Order of the Eagles, and eventually move to Los Angeles and produce movies. His lasting legacy to the Seattle bar and nightclub world was his leading role in establishing Seattle's "Tolerance Policy," a well-established system for paying off the police, which lasted through the 1960s. It was this very tolerance policy that in the 1930s would allow the old People's Theater space to become the most famous open place for gay people on the west coast. In 1930, Joseph Bellotti purchased the space, with John and Margaret Delevitti operating it, and it soon became a nationally known club for gays, unofficially known as "Madame Peabody's Dancing Academy for Young Ladies." With Delevitti paying off the police, men could dance openly with other men at The Casino (an impossibility in most other cities) and drag queens could remain largely unharrassed. The Casino and the Double Header upstairs, which remains to this day, would attract gay visitors and various celebrities from around the country, including the likes of Rudolph Nureyev, Johnny Ray, Margot Fonteyn, and Tallulah Bankhead. The unrestrained Ms. Bankhead is cited by historical sources as entering the upper bar with her retinue, ringing a cow bell, and shouting to the assembled queens, "Avon calling all you beautiful motherf***ers!" To this day the cow bell remains hanging on the wall of the Double Header (which has a fairly compelling argument for being the oldest continually running gay bar in the United States). Before it became the rather formulaic 21st century dance clubs Heaven and then Volume, the space also hosted The Catwalk from 1994 to 2005. The Catwalk brought a modernized edge to the place's bawdy history, hosting various S&M and gothic events, as well as fetish fashion shows.
201318981898Percy's, Seattle This building, constructed in 1898 (after the great fire along this strip in 1895), originally hosted the Ballard Bar. The bar currently in the space is called "Percy's" and serves a "Sankey Sour" in honor of the Ballard Bar owner, Percy Sankey. After Prohibition it was the Silver Spot and then Enger's Fish Knot Inn. It became the Old Town Ale House in 1995, and Percy's in 2013.
?18821882Bluebird Inn, Bickleton This building was constructed and began business as a bar in 1882. Previous names have included The Pool Hall, The Club, The Bickleton Tavern, and The Bluebird Tavern.
?18881902Kuk's Tavern, Northport According to a historical plaque featured on Kuk's Facebook page, the current building hosting Kuk's was constructed in 1888 and started then as a saloon and brothel, apparently called "Skrobian's". An 1898 photo in "Gold Creeks and Ghost Towns of Northeastern Washington" shows what appears to be the same building under the sign of the Silver Crown Hotel. In 1902 the building was moved on logs to its current location. It was later named "Fred's Pool Hall" by Fred Skrobian, and became "Kuk's" at some point under ownership of Marion Kukuk.
?1890s1873Frontier Tavern, Ellensburg A saloon was established in this location in 1873, which makes it possibly the oldest bar location, currently hosting a bar, that I have found in Washington state (depending upon when the Oak Harbor Tavern was moved to its current location). However, that building burned in 1889 fire, and the current building was constructed a few years later (Watering Holes of the Northwest)
1950s?1933?1933?Rubbatino's/Owl Room, Renton Rubbatino's has been said to have been established in 1917, and is said to have originally been the Owl Annex Beer Parlor. However, it's unlikely that a new place would be named as beer parlor when state-wide prohibition was already in place. Further, King County tax records indicate the that current building was not constructed until 1927, so it does not appear that there could have been a bar in the current structure until after prohibition. There are some vestiges of the "Owl Room" around the bar and back entrance. It most likely started as the "Owl Cafe," and it is unclear when it took the name Rubbatino's.
200118931893City Hall Saloon, Cumberland The building hosting the City Hall Saloon in Cumberland appears to have been constructed as a hotel for coal miners in 1893. I was told by one of the locals that it featured a saloon at the time, although I have not seen any verification on this. The bar has been known as Big Mike's, Carolyn's, and the Eager Beaver. Since April 2001 it has been "City Hall Saloon" (although it never actually hosted a city hall), and is referred to by regulars as "the community center."
201219331933Scotty's, Puyallup The 2J's appears to have have operated in this space from 1933 until 2012, when it was renamed Scotty's. It was constructed circa 1890 and known originally as the Valley Drug Store (personal correspondence with owner, Washington state historical survey of Puyallup)
20151935 OE1935 OEDelia's Oakland Lounge Delia's Oakland Lounge is in a building that dates back to the 20s and in a space that has hosted bars since at least 1935, and probably a year or two earlier given that it was reputed to be a speakeasy during prohibition. In 1935 it was the Nineteenth Hole, and operated under that name into the 1980s. In subsequent years it was known as June's Tavern and Seafari Sports Bar.
?1894?1894?Kelly's Restaurant and Lounge, Newport From historylink.org: "Newport’s oldest building, the Koch Saloon, originally known as the Newport Club and now Kelly’s Restaurant and Lounge, was built in 1894. Its bar was brought around Cape Horn by ship and then transported overland to Newport. It claims the distinction of being the second oldest saloon in the state." I can't see the claim to the second oldest saloon (unless this is a claim to being allowed to use the word "saloon" post prohibition -- see Three Fingered Jacks). I also don't know how long Kelly's Tavern -- now "Restaurant and Lounge" -- has been there. But this seems to imply that the Newport Club opened with the building in 1894 and that the place has hosted a bar for most of the time thereafter. The only primary source for Newport I have at hand is 1913 city guide which lists a saloon owned by John Koch (no business name or address).
?1?1933?Last Frontier Saloon, Fall City Built 1930; Lars Johnson turned into beer parlor; was Pioneer Saloon, torn down in 1929; was Talk's Tavern in 1950s (see "Jack's History of Fall City")
?1950s?Lyman Tavern, Lyman I have very little idea how long ago there was a tavern at this location, but the locals talk about it going back to the early days of the town. The current building was constructed at the location of the Lyman Tavern that burned down the morning of Feb. 9th, 1950. The current owner is also the mayor of Lyman.
???Wagon Wheel Restaurant and Lounge, South Prairie I was informed by folks associated with this bar that it dates back to 1930, and indeed Pierce County tax records indicate that is when the building was constructed. But of course it would not have had a liquor license or openly operating bar in 1930. Perhaps it opened as a restaurant (named the "Wagon Wheel"?) in 1930 and added the bar shortly after prohibition. But I have not been able to locate any primary sources to support this.

Additional Notes



If you have any corrections, additions, or other information on Seattle area bars built before 1950, please e-mail to kbar@peterga.com




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