End of an era

Lincoln Lounge co-owners Ryan Gold, left, and Justin Owen have hung paintings by local artists Jaxon Northon, left, and Ahern Hertel.

Lincoln Lounge co-owners Ryan Gold, left, and Justin Owen have hung paintings by local artists Jaxon Northon, left, and Ahern Hertel.

Photo/Brad Bynum

For more information, visit www.thelincolnlounge.com.

Lincoln Lounge is closing.

When Lincoln opened 10 years ago, the bar scene around town was very different. There were a lot fewer breweries, and local watering holes that specialize in boutique beers—like Craft Wine & Beer and St. James Infirmary—hadn’t opened yet. A year earlier, in 2007, co-owners Ryan Gold, Justin Owen and Ravi Anne opened Imperial Bar & Lounge, a pub that, in retrospect, seems like a harbinger of the craft-oriented bar scene we have in Reno today.

“It was that time when craft beers and local beers were really taking off in Reno—and not just in Reno; it was a nationwide trend,” Gold said recently.

Ten years ago might not seem like that long ago, but it was a different era.

“When we opened, the major sources for getting the word out were your paper and Myspace,” Gold said. “Myspace was huge.”

The owners bought the 100-year-old hotel on the corner of Evans Avenue and Fourth Street because they were excited about its proximity to the new ballpark, which was then under construction. They’re all big baseball fans and partly conceived the business to be a place to hang out before and after Aces games—although the atmosphere of Lincoln Lounge has always been more like a swank, old-fashioned lounge than a typical sports bar.

The building had previously been home to Reno Jazz Club, and upstairs were weekly apartments that had seen better days. The new owners renovated the building, redid the floors and walls, added posh wallpaper, and cleaned up the rooms. Each of them has lived in an apartment above the bar at some point.

A year after Lincoln Lounge opened, they added one of the bar’s most memorable features: a beer garden patio, constructed with bricks from a demolished warehouse that dated back to the same period.

“Back then, there were zero patios,” said Owen. “Being from the Midwest, there were beer gardens everywhere, and there were none here.”

The name of the lounge connects to the building’s location along the old Lincoln Highway, the building itself, which was once called the Lincoln Market, and the owners’ roots, since they’re originally from Illinois, the land of Lincoln.

Another distinguishing feature of the bar was Abe’s Mug Club. By sampling all of the dozens of beers offered at Lincoln Lounge, patrons could earn a personal mug, which entitled them to drink specials, T-shirts and other members only perks. As of this writing, there are just shy of 600 members—597, to be exact. They also added a club for whiskey drinkers.

The bar also features portraits of Lincoln painted by well-known local artists like Ahren Hertel, Jaxon Northon and Nic Blades.

For most of its existence, Lincoln Lounge’s signature event has been Soul Night, a monthly dance party featuring ’60s and ’70s soul and R&B hits spun by DJ Andrew. And perhaps because of the bar’s name, it became a favorite place to watch political events, like presidential debates. One of the most memorable nights at the bar was election night 2008.

“It was packed when Obama won, people crying—it was a historic night,” Gold said.

The owners now want to spend more time focused on their families and other businesses, which include Imperial, Old Granite Street Eatery and Royce.

They’ve already sold the building to new owners, who plan to do some minor renovations and change the concept, but the Lincoln owners decided to lease the building back for a month, to give customers a chance to say goodbye and collect their mugs and name plaques—preferably not during events.

Lincoln Lounge’s final month climaxes with two special events: June 30 will be a record release party for the great Reno band Pink Awful, and June 29 will be the very last Lincoln Lounge Soul Night ever.