Bars where Pete has had a Drink (5,835 bars; 1,754 bars in Seattle) - Click titles below for Lists:

Bars where Pete has had a drink

Sunday, September 29, 2019

#3598 - Mello-Dee Club, Arco, ID - 8/20/2018

Mello-Dee Club and Steak House, Arco, ID
For approximately two hours on July 17, 1955, technicians at the Department of Energy Idaho National Laboratory switched the electronic grid of the city of Arco, Idaho, to be sourced from the Argonne National Laboratory's BORAX-III nuclear reactor, making the city the first in the world to be powered by nuclear generated electricity. Five and half years later, the same NRTS site would be the location of the US's first nuclear reactor fatalities, as three workers perished when a control rod was withdrawn faster than it should have, resulting the SL-1 core melting and a fatal steam explosion. It may seem an odd history for a small city in south-eastern Idaho that had originally been known as "Root Hog" and was somehow later renamed after a German radio technology pioneer. But the city features prominent reminders of the former event, as well as celebrating it each July with an Atomic Days event.

1955 was also the year that Harvey Helderman was persuaded to purchase the Mello-Dee Club bar and dance hall, which had just been constructed two years prior, probably by the Nuff brothers. Harvey and his wife Betty ran the club for many years before it was taken over by their son Roy. Roy had just retired before I visited the place in August of 2018, but still seemed to come by every day. Roy said that before he purchased the Mello-Dee, his father had owned "a cowboy bar" in Nampa. Roy and his wife had sold the adjoined restaurant portion in 2013, which then became Big Sexy's Burgers and Things and later Burger By Number.

The Mello-Dee no longer features the formalwear dances that one can see in the photos on the wall (Roy pointed out himself as a boy in one), and it doesn't generally have host a huge number of patrons. Arco is the largest city in Butte County, but the population hovers around 1,000 people. It does however still host live music and times, and the sort of social events one sees bars still providing many smaller communities, such as potluck dinners for holidays, memorials for locals who have passed away, and celebrations of Roy's birthday.

Both the decor and the drinks are now familiar neighborhood dive standards. But like the city itself, the bar hints at many untold stories of a sometimes dramatic and romantic past.

Mello-Dee Club, Arco, ID token (via
Mello-Dee Club, Arco, ID token (via

Mello-Dee Club sign, Arco, ID

175 Sunset Dr, Arco, ID 83213 - (208) 527-3125
Est. ? - Building constructed: 1953?
Previous bars in this location: None known
Web site: facebook 
Reviews: yelp - waymarking  

#3867 - The Handlebar, Boise, ID - 9/24/2019

The Handlebar, Boise, ID
I never made it to this space back in its alt rock glory days, when the Crazy Horse and Red Room clubs hosted bands like the Melvins, the Misfits, Greenday, Mudhoney, Black Flag, Korn, the Flaming Lips, 2 Live Crew and the first Boise show by Built to Spill. The Handlebar is a world away from that -- a mellow, light-hearted, craft beer haven where the bikers are the pedaling kind. There are discounts for bringing your dog in, and the live music acts that do perform here appear to be more mellow as well.

The bicycling theme is more than just a decorative motif -- there are bike racks, a bike repair station, and tools available for bike repairs. On days like the one I visited it is a breezy, light space, with the back garage door open and sun glinting off the front patio and interior repurposed wood walls. There are several shelves of board games, jenga, and a ping pong table, as well as regular events like bike polo and tricycle races. But the main draw, besides the people and garage hangout vibe, is the choice from 25 interesting craft beers and and 5 wines on tap.

1519 W Main St, Boise, ID 83702 - (208) 344-0068               
Est. June 27, 2017 - Building constructed: 1925
Previous bars in this location: The Crazy Horse, J.D. and Friends, Terrapin Station, Red Room
Web site: facebook
Articles ranked: idahostatesmanboiseweekly - 1035kissfmboise - yelp - edibleidaho - untappd - liteonline 

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

#2822 - Bootleggers Cove, Tieton, WA - 7/12/2015

Update: Bootleggers Cove closed in 2016

Bootleggers Cove, Tieton, WA

"Tieton (the name is Yakama for “roaring water,” after the nearby river) was once a bustling agricultural town where Washington’s fruit growers stored their produce before shipping it off to destinations across the continent. As the industry began its decline in the 1970s, the town’s center cleared out, leaving its warehouses and storefronts abandoned. The area was repopulated and culturally transformed by a growing Latino community, which has long been a presence on the region’s farms, but Tieton’s town center became a different kind of cultural outpost after art book publisher Ed Marquand saw the possibility in its aging structures and empty streets while on a bike ride there in 2005." (

Tieton, Washington
The bar pickings in Tieton ("Tie-uh-tun"), population just over a thousand, are few, and in 2015 the first and only choice was Bootleggers Cove. The Cove bar looked like a lazy buddy's unfinished basement hangout, with various signs and posters on the faux wood paneled walls, a mixture of padded chairs, pinball machine and darts. All this is accessed by walking into the cafe in front and through a space that seems to have been unceremoniously smashed through a concrete wall.

County tax records date to the current structure to 1925, but local historians date the Tieton State Bank here from 1919 to 1936, noting that the bank was briefly in another location while the current building was being constructed. The space hosted a blacksmith shop before the bank, and a meat market after. It became the Blue Moon Cafe in 1943, then the Tieton Cafe from 1948 to 2013. Bootleggers Cove cafe started across the street, moved into this building in November 2014 and added a lounge. Alas it would remain here only a few months after my visit, and since May 2016 the space has hosted Fernando's Mexican Food.

902 Wisconsin Ave, Tieton, WA 98947 - (509) 673-0033
Est. 2014 - Building constructed: 1925
Previous bars in this location: None known
Web site: facebook
Reviews: yelp - tripadvisor   

Monday, September 16, 2019

#3854 - Elk Saloon, Bovill, ID - 9/2/2019

Elk Saloon, Bovill, ID
Bars have been a big part of the history of Bovill, Idaho since at least the early 1900s, when more than any other community in Latah county, the town was able to avoid the efforts of the Potlatch Lumber Company to ban liquor sales in its 14 lumber camps, various company towns, and within 5 miles of any railroad. The legal saloons closed in 1910 with the passage of a "local option" that enforced prohibition 6 years earlier than federal prohibition. But Bovill's association with drinking would boom again in the 1950s with the introduction of the "Bovill Run," a traditional drinking event that took students from the Univerisity of Idaho and Washington State University on a trek across northern Idaho in cars, busses, and U-Haul trailers from Moscow Idaho to Bovill and back again, stopping at between 6 and 20 bars along the way. At what was previously the Elk Tavern, female Bovill runners would hang bras from the Wagon Wheel "bra chandelier." (Bar Hopping as Praxis _ Polito et. al.)

All that said, when Baileys Tavern closed around the end of 2012, Bovill found itself without a bar -- and for that matter, without any retail business. So when some folks with local connections decided to revive the old Elk Tavern as the Elk Saloon in 2014, it was not to make a profit, but rather to "bring the town back," one step in revitalizing the old lumber town. The owners "expect the business to cover its expenses, but they don't need to it to make a profit since they have other moneymaking operations." (Lewiston Tribune)

The building holding the reopened Elk Saloon was constructed on Main Street in 1914-1915, after a major fire had consumed much of the town. It first served as a bank (today the cooler lives behind the vault door) and became a bar in the 1940s. This first bar may have been "Dave's Tavern," a name that can still be just made out in the old sign above the front door. It was the Elk Tavern for many years, and today's much cleaned up version features some dramatic elk taxidermy on the walls, along with a poster containing the names of participants in past Bovill Runs.

The Bovill runs peaked in the 1970s and continue today, but the day-to-day life of the Elk Saloon seems considerably more sedate, which is not to say they do not have a range of interesting characters, live music, potlucks on the back patio, elk bugling contests, and participation in events of Bovill's own, like "Wapiti Days" and "Bovill Days." And you don't need a U-Haul packed with college kids to make a fine road trip stop for a cold beer.

Elk Saloon building 1915, University of Idaho photo
Elk Tavern bra chandelier, Howard Averill photo via
"Bar Hopping as Praxis" - Daniel J. Polito et. al.
Bovill, Idaho
The Bovill Run, Polito et. al.
114 Main St, Bovill, Idaho 83806 - (208) 826-3557
Est. Aug 15, 2014 - Building constructed: 1914
Previous bars in this location: Dave's Tavern, Elk Tavern
Web site: facebook
Articles: bar hopping as praxis (Boville Run) - lmtribune (re-opening) - yelp