Every state has bars that locals love to say have been around forever. But which one has been around the longest?
Taverns and bars opened in America as soon as the first settlers arrived to the continent. And while changes to commerce, culture, and technology have caused businesses to come and go, the demand for a place to drink has been a constant (as has the demand for beer). Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin frequented City Tavern in Philadelphia while writing the Declaration of Independence, and “The Star Spangled Banner” was set to a British drinking song.
24/7 Wall St. has identified the oldest bar in each state that is still serving drinks. To be considered, the establishment has to have been in the same location from the time it started serving alcohol, although continuous operation was not required. These places sometimes changed hands and name, but patrons today can stand in a place where alcohol was served centuries ago.
What we found is that 14 bars on the list opened by 1789, the year George Washington took office as the first President of the United States.
The nation’s oldest bar, Rhode Island’s White Horse Tavern, opened in 1673. The newest bar on this list of oldest bars is West Virginia’s Three Gables Club, which opened in 1935. Almost half of the bars on the list opened before the state they are located in joined the Union.
Determining a founding date for these establishments was rarely easy, and often depended on the claims of the establishments themselves. Whenever possible, we consulted corroborations by local experts, state historical societies, the issuance of liquor licenses, and more. In each bar’s description, the date listed is when we believe the establishment first served liquor on its premises.
Many bars have been private residences or other types of facilities over the years and many were forced to close or go underground during temperance movements in the 1800s and Prohibition from 1920-1933. Many of these establishments, however, continued to operate as speakeasies.