Spirits get better with time. The same can be said about Dayton’s oldest bars.
The Century Bar, located at 10 S. Jefferson St., is downtown Dayton’s oldest bar, dating back to 1942 under that name and that location. (We’ll get to some other ones later on, so hang tight.)
Diane Spitzig, the bar’s co-owner, says the location’s history as a bar dates back even before then.
Steffen’s, a male-only “coffee shop,” opened three years after the Great Dayton Flood of 1913.
A menu from Steffen’s hangs in the bar. You could get a beer and a hamburger for 10 cents each. A T-bone steak was the most expensive item, and would set you back 75 cents.
Kette & Sons Rye Whiskey Distillery was established at the site in the 1890s and lasted until the flood.
“It’s an honor to be able to continue the rich history that we have here in Dayton,” Spitzig said.
The Stage Door Musical Bar, located at 44 N. Jefferson St., will celebrate its 59th anniversary later this year.
Owner Wayne Kelley says it is the oldest gay bar in the state of Ohio.
The Century Bar plans to relocate next door to the three-story former Dayton Power and Light building by the end of the year.
WHAT ABOUT THE BAR IN THE BARS?
Century’s cherry and stained-glass back bar, constructed in 1862, was purchased by Steffen’s from Gibson’s Hotel in Cincinnati.
Jay's Seafood Restaurant, located at 225 E Sixth St in the nearby Oregon District, was constructed in 1882 from 5,400 pounds of Honduras Mahogany.
A CITY THAT LOVES A COCKTAIL
Dayton has long been a city that loves its bars.
Before prohibition, Curt Dalton of the non-profit website Dayton History Books Online and Dayton History, said they were everywhere.
Many of the city’s breweries owned their own bars and sold seven to 15 varieties of ale each.
“There was nearly one on every street corner,” he said. “Almost every street had one.”
The Trolley Stop, at 530 E. Fifth St. in the Oregon District, is the city’s oldest continually-operating bar, according to co-owner Robin Sassenberg.
Established as the Liquor Room in the mid-1880s, the bar was named the Trolley Stop between 1976 and 1978 as gentrification transformed the neighborhood.
The Oregon Express Bar and Restaurant and Franco’s Ristorante Italiano opened in the Oregon District during that same period.
Sassenberg said bars take pride in their established date for good reason.
“It makes us more authentic,” she said. “We are not just a place that is a chain with corporate decorations and corporate walls and corporate policies.”
BUT WHAT ABOUT NEWCOM’S?
The original Newcom’s Tavern, the city’s oldest standing building, was constructed in 1796 as a two-story home. It became a tavern in 1798 or 1799, when the Newcom family added rooms.
The tavern was moved to Carillon Historical Park in 1964, where it remains on display.