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“Here’s to Making Bad Decisions You’ll Never Regret”
On September 15th, 2008 crowds stood in the streets of downtown Ketchum and watched with wet eyes as a historic landmark burned to the ground.
Whiskey Jacques, located for over 35 years on Main Street, went from one of the most popular bars in Ketchum (where Ernest Hemingway himself said he loved to grab a drink and a steak) to a pile of broken bottles, singed timber, memories and jobs up in smoke.
The aftermath of the Whiskey's fire on Ketchum's Main Street. (Photo courtesy of Whiskey Jacques'.)
Those who aren’t from here have always responded with raised eyebrows when they hear how reverently locals talk about the Whiskey’s fire, shaking their heads decidedly that we must all be raging alcoholics to get so emotional about a bar. But Whiskeys, for so many, is much, much more than that.
If you ever get caught calling it “Whiskey Jacques,” you will be pegged an outsider immediately. It’s “Whiskey’s” to any and everyone from around this Valley. And if you’ve been here long enough to know that, you also know that this “bar” is also called “home” by many looking for a post-work cold beer. For all intents and purposes, it’s also a concert hall – one, if not the only regularized live music venues in town. It’s also one wild wedding reception, bachelor party or ten-year reunion. It’s a seven-year-old’s piñata party. It’s a Saturday-night-fevered dance floor, with a little twist of Vincent Vega meets Mia Wallace. It’s a longtime and d-lish pizzeria. On Sundays, it’s a football stadium. And yes, of course, it’s a bar too.
For over a year, there was a gaping hole where Whiskey’s once stood and, most often, a gaping hole in everyone’s Friday night plans.
That is, until owner Karin Martin decided to bring the bar back from the ashes. And she did such a great job keeping the “new” Whiskey’s remarkably similar to the “old,” with help from architect Buffalo Rixon, that some non-veteran out-of-towners never even realized the changeup. (Check out our recent piece about the Whiskey’s rebuild in this fall’s HOME edition.) Even with its makeover and revitalization, the bar maintains the basic original architecture, the same dark wood, the same menu, prices, bartenders, and the same faces. To revamp the place, they have added a game room, some big sunny windows, about 2,000 extra square feet, and an entire second floor (available to rent out for private parties).
Left: Whiskey's good-looking rebuilt bar. Right: The new upstairs addition.
Now a double-decker with a total of three bars, there are also two outdoor dining decks, one heck of a view of Baldy and a bigger and better stage. It has successfully become a new building with the old feel.
Although there is no Happy Hour (because this bar stays busy enough without it), there is Karaoke Night with DJ Spice Train, Beirut tournaments, full service food served til 9:00 PM, and live music every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. And if your co-worker shows up to work on a Wednesday morning with bloodshot eyes and a vice grip on their coffee mug, you can safely guess the two words they’ll groan in explanation –“Dollar Night.”
Every Sunday and Tuesday, you can get well cocktails for $1. Weekend nights are body-to-body, line-out-the-door packed during high tourist season and if that isn’t your thing you can always rub elbows with the too-cheap-to-pay-a-$10-cover locals on the off nights. Whenever you decide to go, this bar is never exactly empty.
The menu includes such gems as the Spinach and Feta Salad with Chopped Bacon, Bourbon Spicy Hot Wings, and the South of the Border Pizza with Grilled Chicken, Jalapeño, Cilantro, Fresh Tomato and Garlic. You can wash that down with a classy cab or vodka and Red Bull.
Left: Classic Whiskey's bar food. Right: The classic Whiskey's music scene.
There are friendly Romanian doormen (and that one long-haired Boston boy), iconic tattooed and seasoned bartenders like Jason Spicer who have been there for over a decade, eight high-def big-screen TV’s to watch whatever game you want, Big Buckhunter and a stuffed-animal game. And don’t forget, this is practically the only place in town providing a regular injection into the live music vein. It’s no surprise that this bar has survived 40 years and a fire. It's where people always seem to end up.
Home to kids, geriatrics, and the young and the beautiful, everyone in town has at least a few memories (however blurred) of Whiskey Jacques. And though the fire that devastated the building threatened to snuff out the bar altogether (and thankfully, a few outstanding bar tabs… Mark) it lived on in the minds and memories of the locals, and now it is those who have helped rebuild it with their continued patronage.
As the saying goes, Ketchum is not so much a place as a state of mind. The same can be said of Whiskeys – it maintains that character, that mentality, that lives in this town and has shaped the bar as much as the bar has shaped it. So in all reality, it’s not "just" a bar. It’s Ketchum, Idaho, baby.
For more info about Whiskey's: whiskeyjaques.com, 208.726.5297, firstname.lastname@example.org