10 Of The Oldest Continuously Running Bars In The South

These time-tested bars are well worth a visit.


Courtesy of Tujague's

When coming up with this diverting little list of drinking holes, we wrestled with some questions: What makes an establishment a bar as opposed to a pub, a tavern, a speakeasy, or any other synonym? Are they allowed to serve food, or are they supposed to be a strictly peanuts-and-brewski kinds of places? Can they offer entertainment and be more like a lounge or a nightclub? And, if it’s also a restaurant, do minors in the establishment discount them?

Then there’s the definition of "continuously running." Now that’s a tricky phrase. After all, some of our most old-timey bars have seen two pandemics, several wars, and the big P that we as Southerners are far too polite to mention.

OK, we’re talking about Prohibition, which turned some bars into hidden speakeasies and some into temporary tombs that were then revivified by the same owners, their families, or even patrons.

Some have closed doors for renovations, rehabilitations, or even moves down the street because they suffered a natural disaster like a fire or flood, or capitalistic distress when the landlord raised the rent. Indeed, the latter is an inconvenience as old as America itself. 

But in the end, these bars are still here, doing what they do best: serving. Whether it's with food, without food, while also hosting musical groups, allowing kids and families, or keeping it 21+, it doesn't really matter to us.

We figure survival alone—with a liquor license—is pretty impressive. And while it certainly doesn’t hurt that a few of them feature mold-breaking design components or a collection of truly antique bourbons, endurance is the criteria that make these historic bars, much like the Michelin star, worth stopping at for a quaff when you’re also thirsty for a taste of the past.

01 of 10

Eischen's Bar—Okarche, Oklahoma

Eischen’s Bar exterior

Eischen’s Bar

You'd be forgiven, just looking at the list of famous clientele who are listed on the website, for thinking that Eischen’s Bar is modern. But this Okarche, Oklahoma icon, now known for its fried chicken and its appearances on celebrity food television shows, was originally opened as in 1896 by Peter Eischen as a beer saloon.

The bar itself? Even older than that, dating to the 1800s when it was hand-carved back in Spain. It wound up in California during the gold rush before a member of the family won it during a hunting trip and installed it in the 1940s.

While Eischen's had to pause for Prohibition and survive a fire—like many of the other candidates for oldest bars—it distinguishes itself by remaining in the family.

02 of 10

The Ohio Club—Hot Springs, Arkansas

The Ohio Club

Visit Hot Springs

Like other historic bars, this one in Hot Springs, Arkansas has seen some changes since it launched in 1905 as a bar and casino, when it was frequented by the usual mobster suspects such as Al Capone and Bugsy Siegel.

It also saw the likes of Major League Baseball players, especially Babe Ruth, although we can’t speculate whether that was because Hot Springs was a gambling hot spot or where the MLB held spring training back then.

While it’s no longer a den of iniquity hosting bosses, one through-line has held true: A ton of musical talent played at the Ohio Club almost from the beginning, with Al Jolson in 1915, and live music continues to be its forte today—along with alcohol, of course.

03 of 10

The Old Talbott Tavern—Bardstown, Kentucky

The Old Talbott Tavern

Jenny Pollitte Photography

Architecturally speaking, The Old Talbott Tavern remains one of the most interesting pubs in the South. Established in 1779, it was the most western stagecoach stop of its time.

Today, this Bardstown, Kentucky tavern retains its Flemish stone walls (the eastern end of which is two feet-thick) and other original elements such as window casings and ceiling timbers. It’s so remarkably built that the first floor survived a 1998 electrical fire that destroyed upstairs, and it’s lauded by the Dry-Stone Masonry Institute of America.

But the Old Talbott also has quite a bourbon history as well, with distillers who were clientele (William Heavenhill, followed by “Mr. Ed” Shapero, of Heaven Hill Distillery), friends (William Samuels and Leslie Samuels, Master Distillers of Maker’s Mark), and even owners (T.D. Beam, brother of Jim Beam).

04 of 10

The Palace Saloon—Fernandina Beach, Florida

Palace Saloon exterior, Amelia Island, FL

Deremer Studios LLC

Florida might not be historically abundant when compared to the rest of the South (and yes, Florida is still part of the South), but the history it does have is certainly in the right places. This legendary place in Fernandina Beach, whose interior was co-conceived by owner Louis G. Hirth and friend Adolphus Busch, founder of Anheuser-Busch, turns 120 in 2023.

Not too shabby, especially when you consider that it retains its original design elements, including the tin ceilings, mosaic floors, and that fabulous 40-foot bar.

05 of 10

The Pirate's House—Savannah

The Pirate's House exterior

The Pirates’ House

In a city rife with historic buildings, it’s not hard to find a bar that dates back, oh, 270 years or so. This Savannah placeholder is the state's oldest bar, hailing from 1753. Since it was only a block from the river, it naturally became a focal point for sailors of all kinds, including the illicit rapscallions to which the name refers.

These days, you can stop in for everything from "Low Country spring rolls" to a plethora of boozy drinks named after pirates, including our particular fave, the Bloody Pirate, which is fortunately not as literal as it sounds.

06 of 10

Scholz Garten—Austin, Texas

Scholz Garten

Kristina Recla

This German beer garden isn’t just unusual for being the oldest of the bunch in Texas. Opened by a German immigrant in Austin in 1866, it’s survived this long in a divided country by offering willkommen to everyone, regardless of ethnicity, political party, and even football team loyalty.

Today, if you don’t want to wash your sauerkraut balls and sausages down with any of the nearly three dozen beers, ciders, and mead on tap, you can sample a "Haus Margarita." Then head to the nearby (and related) Austin Saengerrunde for bowling, which was built in 1879 by a group who owned Scholz at one point.

07 of 10

Springwater Supper Club & Lounge—Nashville

Springwater Supper Club & Lounge

Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp

From the get-go in 1896, the Springwater has been doling out drinks to a grateful Nashville crowd. It survived Prohibition by becoming a speakeasy.

But these days, it’s known for far more than being the oldest, continuously serving bar in Tennessee. With live music seven nights per week, plus music video shoots and other events, the Springwater is always the sight of a scene.

It also professes to have the coldest beer in town. We can’t say that last claim is true for sure, but one thing we do know: They’re certainly colder than they were when it opened.

08 of 10

The Tavern—Abingdon, Virginia

The Tavern

Jason Barnette

Located in the small southwestern Virginia town of Abingdon, The Tavern is not only the town's oldest building. It’s not only the oldest continuously run pub in Virginia. It’s also the eighth oldest in the entire country.

Established in 1779, The Tavern has seen more than a few proprietors, all of whom left their mark in some way, from restoring the building to adding German dishes to the menu, which current owner Josh Fuller continues presenting.

The Tavern has also seen its share of thirsty international guests throughout its years, ranging from President Andrew Jackson to Louis Philippe, King of France.

09 of 10

T.P. Crockmiers—Mobile, Alabama

T.P. Crockmiers

T.P. Crockmiers

Thaddeus P. Crockmier thought 1875 would be a pretty good year to open a high-end bar. That’s because it was after he survived gambling on his future through both the Civil War and various games of chance.

He actually debuted his tony establishment in Atlanta, Georgia, where other people of means would enjoy his vision. But his vision had to move, and it eventually wound up in Mobile, where Prohibition was seen as a reason for secession from the state of Alabama and Mardi Gras was a reason for living.

Today, T.P. Crockmiers keeps up the tradition of exuberant service in the historic section of town which resembles the French Quarter of New Orleans.

10 of 10

Tujague’s Restaurant—New Orleans

Tujague's Gentleman's Manhattan

Sam Hanna

Clearly, this New Orleans classic, established in 1856, is labeled "restaurant" (and as such is the third-oldest continuously operating restaurant in America). What’s not obvious is that it is indeed home to the oldest stand-up bar in the nation.

The bar was also the birthplace of co-owner Philip Guichet’s Grasshopper and Whiskey Punch cocktails, which won second and first place in national competitions respectively, and became classics in their own right.

When Tujague’s moved to a new home, from 823 to 429 Decatur Street, the owners couldn’t bring the entire bar, especially the mirror that stood behind it, which was almost a century old when it was imported from France and installed. But they did manage to bring the foot rail, light fixtures, and portrait of co-owner Otis Guichet, who looks down (we’d like to think approvingly) today.

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