There’s nothing like stepping into an old bar. You can just feel the history around you – the walls may be browned by years of tobacco smoke, the initials of previous patrons may be carved into the tables, old posters and advertisements may be stuck on the wall – and you may feel as if you have stepped back into the time.
Bars have been a part of American society since before it was a country. In colonial times, taverns functioned as meeting places, banquet halls, inns where weary travelers could get a hot meal and perhaps spend the night, and simply places where you just stopped in for a beer or a full rum. Amazingly, some of these colonial-era taverns still exist and still serve the same purpose.
Great modern cocktail bars and pubs with an Irish accent have their place, but old bars are something else. The idea of having a drink in the exact same place – bowing to the same old bar – as many thousands of others have over many generations connects us to the past in a way that few other experiences can.
To determine some of the oldest bars in America, 24/7 Tempo consulted lists of longtime watering holes on websites including Insider, USA today, Thrillist, Wine enthusiast, Oldest.org, Beer infoand The cooling list. (Going back far further than anything else in America, here is the world’s oldest bars and restaurants still open.)
To be considered for inclusion here, a bar or pub must have been in the same location from the time it first served alcohol, although continuous operation is not required. Determining a foundation date for these sites is rarely easy and often depends on the requirements of the companies. Whenever possible, in addition to the sources listed above, we consulted state historical societies in an effort to verify these claims. In each bar’s description, the date listed is when we believe the establishment first served liquor on its premises.
Click here to learn about the oldest bars in America
For obvious reasons, America’s oldest bars are taverns built in the eastern part of the country, where tavern-loving colonists and other early settlers, often from England, first set up shop. For venerable drinking spots in other parts of the country, see our overview the oldest bar in every state.
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