Every state has bars that locals claim to have been around forever. But which one has been around the longest?
Taverns and bars opened in America as soon as the first settlers arrived on the continent. And while businesses have come and gone because of changes to commerce, culture, and technology, the demand for a place to drink has been unchanged.
Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin frequented City Tavern in Philadelphia while the Declaration of Independence was being written. Our national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner,” was set to a British drinking song. This is the history behind America’s national anthems, songs, and marches.
24/7 Tempo has identified the oldest bar in each state still serving drinks. To be considered, the establishment has to have been in the same location from the time it started serving alcohol, although continuous operation was not required. Whenever possible, we consulted local experts and state historical societies. In each bar’s description, the date listed is when we believe the establishment first served liquor on its premises.
Longevity in the tavern trade has proved to be particularly challenging during the pandemic, which has prevented social gatherings in enclosed spaces. The oldest bar in South Carolina — McCrady’s, founded in 1778 — closed permanently because of the pandemic.
Almost half of the bars on the list opened before the state they are located in joined the Union. The nation’s oldest bar, Rhode Island’s White Horse Tavern, opened in 1673. Some of these establishments are in America’s oldest towns. Here are 102 American towns founded before the American Revolution.
Many bars have been private residences or other types of facilities over the years, and many were forced to close or go underground during temperance movements in the 1800s and Prohibition from 1920 to 1933. Many of these establishments, however, continued to operate as speakeasies.