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Bars where Pete has had a drink

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  

1 comment:

Unknown said...

This is a great bar! The owners go out of their way to provide a warm friendly atmosphere with lots of great events. They are constantly providing new events with fun and food. The best bar on the Palouse!!