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7 Ancient East Bay Bars for History Lovers and Lushes

From historic gay bars to Jack London's favorite dive, here's where to drink in the past.

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While some bars become instant classics, others gradually accumulate their classic status, even absent anything resembling class. These seven East Bay bars, dating as far back as 1833, are all a minimum of 45 years old, and have managed to dodge inconveniences like Prohibition and cirrhosis to stay in business far longer than most of their patrons. Use them as inspiration for your next BART-based bar crawl.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Heinold's First & Last Chance Saloon

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48 Webster St
Oakland, CA 94607
(510) 839-6761
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Located in Jack London Square, and purportedly Jack London’s favorite bar, Heinold's was founded in 1883. These days, it's a cultural landmark and a tourist attraction, owing its striking curved floor to a long history of seismic activity since opening. Throw in the low ceilings, tchotchkes and dollar bills dating back 100 years, and you have the makings oof an icon. Grab a beer or a shot (it's cash-only).

2. Townhouse Bar & Grill

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5862 Doyle St
Emeryville, CA 94608
(510) 652-6151
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Built in 1926, the building that would become Townhouse was a speakeasy during Prohibition, and it looks like the exterior hasn’t been painted since. Inside, it’s more like a dinner club sprung out of the '70s and redecorated in the late '90s (same goes for the menu), but you can still remember the days when Emeryville was less Ikea and loft apartments, and more rum runners.

3. Hotsy Totsy Club

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601 San Pablo Ave
Albany, CA 94706
(510) 526-5986
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The Hotsy Totsy has been around since 1939, making it Albany's oldest bar. It recently underwent a remodel that left it with purple walls and a large collection of undoubtedly priceless velvet paintings. The shuffleboard table is a popular attraction, as is a jukebox stuffed with old 45s from the '50s and '60s. The happy-hour drinks are cheap, but there’s also a full craft cocktail list, with some elaborate takes on hot chocolate and apple cider, and a taco truck parked outside a few nights a week.

4. The Alley

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3325 Grand Ave
Oakland, CA 94610
(510) 444-8505
One of the last piano bars in a city that used to have many of them, The Alley centers around a pianist even older than it is: Rod Dibble, born in 1932, a year before the bar opened. As always seems to be the case in old bars, people love to stick ticket stubs, money, business cards, and other ephemera to the wall, perhaps after a crazy-cheap steak and a few rounds of songs accompanied by Dibble himself.

5. The Kingfish Pub & Cafe

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5227 Claremont Ave
Oakland, CA 94618
(510) 655-7373
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Opened in 1922 as a bait shop and bar, Kingfish originally benefited from a location just outside the UC Berkeley dry mile radius. It’s been serving a steady stream of heavy drinking locals for a long, long time, and all the random tickets and crap stapled and stuck to the wall and ceiling are like a geological record of filth and drunkenness. Like Hotsy Totsy, shuffleboard is the only amusement, and the drinks are cheap. It now enjoys a new location in Telegraph, after it was lifted onto a truck and moved to save it from being razed for condos. Now it has a roomy patio, so silver linings do exist.

6. White Horse Bar

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6551 Telegraph Ave
Oakland, CA 94609
(510) 652-3820
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The White Horse claims to be America’s longest continuously operating gay bar, with a fuzzy opening date that probably happened during Prohibition. Officially, the bar has been on the books since 1933. During the day, it's like a living room, with patrons watching TV movies and smoking cigarettes on the spacious indoor/outdoor patio (it's even got a pool table). At night, things get rowdier, with karaoke, dance parties, and jello shots.

7. The Fat Lady Bar & Restaurant

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201 Washington St
Oakland, CA 94607
(510) 465-4996
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A relative newcomer compared to the rest of the list (it opened in 1970), this Oakland bar nonetheless has plenty of throwback appeal, thanks to its red velvet curtains, gold mirrors, and approximately one million tassled lamps. It's technically a restaurant, but there's a bar for throwing one back, perhaps with a plate of their famous fried zucchini.

1. Heinold's First & Last Chance Saloon

48 Webster St, Oakland, CA 94607
Located in Jack London Square, and purportedly Jack London’s favorite bar, Heinold's was founded in 1883. These days, it's a cultural landmark and a tourist attraction, owing its striking curved floor to a long history of seismic activity since opening. Throw in the low ceilings, tchotchkes and dollar bills dating back 100 years, and you have the makings oof an icon. Grab a beer or a shot (it's cash-only).
48 Webster St
Oakland, CA 94607

2. Townhouse Bar & Grill

5862 Doyle St, Emeryville, CA 94608
Built in 1926, the building that would become Townhouse was a speakeasy during Prohibition, and it looks like the exterior hasn’t been painted since. Inside, it’s more like a dinner club sprung out of the '70s and redecorated in the late '90s (same goes for the menu), but you can still remember the days when Emeryville was less Ikea and loft apartments, and more rum runners.
5862 Doyle St
Emeryville, CA 94608

3. Hotsy Totsy Club

601 San Pablo Ave, Albany, CA 94706
The Hotsy Totsy has been around since 1939, making it Albany's oldest bar. It recently underwent a remodel that left it with purple walls and a large collection of undoubtedly priceless velvet paintings. The shuffleboard table is a popular attraction, as is a jukebox stuffed with old 45s from the '50s and '60s. The happy-hour drinks are cheap, but there’s also a full craft cocktail list, with some elaborate takes on hot chocolate and apple cider, and a taco truck parked outside a few nights a week.
601 San Pablo Ave
Albany, CA 94706

4. The Alley

3325 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA 94610
One of the last piano bars in a city that used to have many of them, The Alley centers around a pianist even older than it is: Rod Dibble, born in 1932, a year before the bar opened. As always seems to be the case in old bars, people love to stick ticket stubs, money, business cards, and other ephemera to the wall, perhaps after a crazy-cheap steak and a few rounds of songs accompanied by Dibble himself.
3325 Grand Ave
Oakland, CA 94610

5. The Kingfish Pub & Cafe

5227 Claremont Ave, Oakland, CA 94618
Opened in 1922 as a bait shop and bar, Kingfish originally benefited from a location just outside the UC Berkeley dry mile radius. It’s been serving a steady stream of heavy drinking locals for a long, long time, and all the random tickets and crap stapled and stuck to the wall and ceiling are like a geological record of filth and drunkenness. Like Hotsy Totsy, shuffleboard is the only amusement, and the drinks are cheap. It now enjoys a new location in Telegraph, after it was lifted onto a truck and moved to save it from being razed for condos. Now it has a roomy patio, so silver linings do exist.
5227 Claremont Ave
Oakland, CA 94618

6. White Horse Bar

6551 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609
The White Horse claims to be America’s longest continuously operating gay bar, with a fuzzy opening date that probably happened during Prohibition. Officially, the bar has been on the books since 1933. During the day, it's like a living room, with patrons watching TV movies and smoking cigarettes on the spacious indoor/outdoor patio (it's even got a pool table). At night, things get rowdier, with karaoke, dance parties, and jello shots.
6551 Telegraph Ave
Oakland, CA 94609

7. The Fat Lady Bar & Restaurant

201 Washington St, Oakland, CA 94607
A relative newcomer compared to the rest of the list (it opened in 1970), this Oakland bar nonetheless has plenty of throwback appeal, thanks to its red velvet curtains, gold mirrors, and approximately one million tassled lamps. It's technically a restaurant, but there's a bar for throwing one back, perhaps with a plate of their famous fried zucchini.
201 Washington St
Oakland, CA 94607

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