Karen Watson, the vice president and general manager of The Pine Club has worked at the restaurant for nearly 44 years.
She said, “The stories are endless and they all inspire me and remind me that this is really a special place.”
Jim Sullivan purchased Lonnie’s Bar on Brown Street in 1947 and after installing pine paneling on the walls, he changed the name to The Pine Club. Less than 10 years later, Lloyd Meinzer purchased the restaurant and added the south part of the dining room and increased the size of the bar. The third owner, David Hulme, purchased The Pine Club in 1979 and sold the restaurant in 2018.
When Hulme bought The Pine Club, he had been managing the restaurant for five years. Hulme and Meinzer, did not immediately disclose the sale. The former owner continued to be a strong presence at the restaurant and the two worked side-by-side for more than three years, making no changes to the traditions the community had come to embrace.
In 2018, Hulme told this news outlet that the restaurant had been sold to new ownership, but that ownership requested to remain anonymous and had indicated it wants to be “completely passive with no role in operations.”
Watson said the current ownership bought the restaurant for its love of The Pine Club and had insisted that it wanted everything to stay the same.
Some of those long-standing traditions include:
- No reservations (not even for the President of the United States)
- No credit cards (cash, personal check or house account only)
- No desserts
“I don’t see any major changes in the future. Any changes that would happen would come out of necessity,” Watson said.
She explained the importance of consistency is one of the reasons customers continue to come back year after year.
In regards to reservations, she said people should expect to have some sort of wait unless they get to the restaurant right when they open the doors. She added that going to the bar and having a drink becomes part of the dining experience at The Pine Club.
Watson said at least 50% of their sales every night are house charges where customers give them their name and address and they send them a bill.
“People ask me when are you going to take credit cards and I just assume someday we will have to, but it’s just not today. We will do it the way we are doing it as long as that is something we can do,” Watson said.
Because the restaurant has no desserts, she explained that some customers add a stop at Ben & Jerrys on the corner to their Pine Club experience.
Watson said her and her team of 35 employees take pride in serving their customers.
“There’s the daily grind of doing your job, but at the end of the day I think everybody has a lot of pride in who we are to the community, who we are to other people and we’re just amazed night after night that we are filling the place up,” Watson said.
When asked why she thinks people continue to come back year after year, she said it was to get a really consistent steak.
“I think they want a good steak and on top of that they want the memory of that. It’s a special place for people. It’s the food,” Watson said. “People come in because they want a good dinner and they have a genuine love for The Pine Club.”
Watson said The Pine Club has become a special place for so many people from anniversaries to coming in with their family every week. Each night she hears stories about the last time their customers dined at the restaurant.
“I just want the next generation of customers to be able to come to The Pine Club and tell the same stories that their parents and grandparents tell me,” Watson said.
Earlier this year, The Pine Club purchased the property right next door to the restaurant from East Aqua Development V1 LLC, which is tied to the University of Dayton.
Watson said the building is being used as extra storage and they do not have plans for the property yet.
The Pine Club, located at 1926 Brown Street, is open for dinner service from 4:30 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 4:30 to 11 p.m. Friday and 4 to 11 p.m. Saturday. Doors open at 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
For more information about The Pine Club, visit www.thepineclub.com.