“If you stay here long enough, the world will come to you,” said Paul, a regular of the Genoa Bar and Saloon in Genoa, Nevada, USA. Give me a few minutes and this quote will start to make sense.
If you’re traveling south by car from Reno to Yosemite National Park for example, there’s a slight detour west of US Route 395 which will take you straight to the town of Genoa (Nevada’s oldest town) where you will find the Genoa Bar and Saloon (Nevada’s oldest thirst parlor), and it appears it hasn’t changed a bit since it first opened in 1853.
On the saloon’s website, it proudly declares, “And yes, we grow our own cobwebs here, too.” Despite its need of a serious dusting, both the exterior and interior transport all visitors to old west America—straight out of a spaghetti western and complete with a sign at the front door that warns all visitors: “No horses allowed.”
First open for business as Livingston’s Exchange and then renamed in 1884 as Fettic’s Exchange, the Genoa Bar and Saloon was known as a gentleman’s saloon where the proprietors served fine wines, liquors and cigars.
Some fixtures from the bar’s beginnings remain: one red oil lamp is lit every year on New Year’s Eve, and the electric lamps are also original but were converted to electricity at the turn of the century. In winter, the bar stays warm from a woodstove and locals bring firewood when the supply is running low. And the red spots on the ceiling? They’re not bloodstains, but rather tomato juice.
With tons of character, this bar has seen its share of well-known customers. Mark Twain and US President Ulysses S. Grant savored “cool ones” while Carol Lombard and Clark Gable played high stakes poker with the local cattle barons. Lauren Bacall, Ron Howard, Red Skelton and all Nevada Governors have walked in through the doors.
Raquel Welch’s bra is hanging where she left it years ago: on the antlers of a deer. When she was asked to leave her bra, she demanded that all other bras be removed (the bar owner at the time willingly obliged). Originally leopard print, it’s too dusty now to see its detail.
Patty, a former bartender and a current regular, remembered a story about serving Clint Eastwood at the bar. He was in the area for a golf tournament during one summer, and she paid no attention to him because she didn’t know it was him–she only recalled a man wearing sunglasses in the bar. The day after Clint Eastwood was there, the owner said to Patty, “God, it was nice you didn’t make such a big deal that Clint was in the bar.” And Patty answered, “And that would be Clint who?” When she discovered it was indeed Clint Eastwood, her jaw dropped.
And while the music of choice on the jukebox ranges from old country to lots of rock, musicians have naturally found themselves drawn to the bar. Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash and John Denver have all been counted as visitors. At one point, Willie Nelson was there so frequently that his hat hangs at the end of the bar.
Open 24 hours a day, the Genoa Bar and Saloon has seen its share of history and diverse individuals mosey on down to hang out in its cozy environment–snowboarders from Lake Tahoe and local cowboys might have a mild rivalry amongst themselves–and despite these differences, Scott Bartels (a regular since 1963) claimed that he has hardly witnessed any fights. Somehow, that all makes sense after a visit to this iconic, down-to-earth, off-the-beaten path bar. And we can all raise our glasses to that.
By Sabrina Cooper