Autumn Phillips: Revolving bar


The death rattles started sounding early. It was early in the evening -- still light out -- and the door to Sabre's Underground was propped open. Music was pouring out into the street, and the hollering inside sounded like $1 drink specials.

It was the last night for Sabre's, the latest incarnation of 703 Lincoln Ave., a space now legendary for chewing up and spitting out one bar after another.

703 Lincoln Ave. is like a woman trying on clothes before a first date. This pair of pants makes her butt look too big. This shirt isn't sexy enough.

A pile is gathering at her feet.

The Hatch.


The Cellar.

The Wolf Den.


Those of us with an eye on the downtown nightlife watch knowingly. We sit at bars across the street and blocks away analyzing the fate of that space.

"You have to let it be a dingy dive bar," one person said. "But you can't push the dive bar aspect too much."

Those of us who are all-wise about such things nodded in agreement.

"You need someone in charge who knows how to book good bands."

Yes, of course.

I threw my proposal on the table: an art film theater in that back room. In the front room -- pool tables, shuffleboard, foosball. Good bands. Booths along the wall. PBR. Late night food.

"Maybe you could call it 'I'm Trying Really Hard to be a Cool Bar.'"

The council nodded. Yes. Good idea.

I remember when the new owners (it was plural in the beginning) showed up in town announcing their vision for a comedy club.

I sat in the newspaper's conference room with one of them getting the details for an article. I put down my pen for a second and asked, "Has anyone told you the history of that place?"

He knew. But this time was going to be different.

They were going to steam clean the walls. Paint. Put in new floors. Move the stage.

I hoped it would work, but that basement bar has a mind of its own. It oozes.

You can dress her up, but she still swears like a sailor with an eighth-grade education.

My first weekend in town, I was looking for something fun to do, and the guy at Mocha Molly's (who I now know as Shawn) said, "There's a good band at The Cellar tonight."

Cool. I went home and opened the phone book to find out where "The Cellar" was, but there was no listing.

After asking around, I learned that The Cellar was now called The Wolf Den.

Same place. Different place.

You can tell when someone arrived in town by what they call 703 Lincoln Ave. It's our way of keeping an oral history of the place.

Now, there will be a whole group of people who will call that basement Sabre's for as long as they live here, even long after my I'm Trying Really Hard to be a Cool Bar has come and gone out of business.


ldwalter12 10 years ago

Sabre's didn't close because it failed, it closed because the lease was up in October, was not going to be renewed (as the Harbor Hotel Group was selling the building and it was going to be demolished), and rather than sit through another slow Summer in Steamboat, we were bought out of our lease. It was a smart business move.

Had you talked to anyone involved you would have known that.

You seem to feel you have the right to bash everyone else, but what have you ever done, or tried to do? It is pretty easy to be a "Monday Morning Quarterback" with you and your "all wise" friends, but I didn't see any of you lining up in 2003 with cash to buy and change the place into your Utopian Steamboat bar when it was the closed "Wolf's Den".

I did, and we made a good go of it. One thing you say is true, however, a whole group will remember that bar as Sabre's, and the good times they had there.

I'm pretty OK with that.

L. Dale Walter


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