Old Ironsides 80th Anniversary 1934-2014
The Old Ironsides bar and restaurant is celebrating its 80th anniversary this December. The family owned and operated establishment opened in 1934 as the very first business to obtain a liquor license in Sacramento after Prohibition. Now, 80 years later, the Old Ironsides is the oldest bar in Sacramento – best known for their live music on nights and weekends and was recently named by Yahoo! as the best dive bar in Sacramento.The Old Ironsides was established in 1934 with William “Bill” Bordisso obtaining the first liquor license in Sacramento after Prohibition. Bill operated the bar with the help of his brother, Lou Bordisso, and their wives, Lena and Sunny. In 1949, the Old Ironsides bottle shop and game room opened. The bottle shop was operated by the wives and was located in the back where the restrooms are today. Back then bottle shops were the only places to purchase liquor from before the big box warehouses and grocery stores started selling alcohol. A big part of the business for Old I back then was filling gift orders for lobbyists and politicians, and business owners for their clients. The game room housed a fireplace and piano player as well as shuffleboard, pinball and claw machines that were popular at night and also helped keep business steady.In addition to being a bar and a bottle shop, lunch was also offered Monday through Friday at the Old Ironsides. Much different then the menu today, lunch in the thirties, forties and fifties consisted of a single special every day, like spaghetti and meatballs or beef short ribs that would be repeated weekly.In the swinging sixties, Billee Jean (daughter of Bill and Lena Bordisso) and her husband Sam Kanelos joined the family business. Sam and Billee heralded in the glory years of “the cocktail hour.” Not the typical “happy hour” as we know today, these were two or three martini lunches frequented by local politicians, judges and state workers. The couple also continued to operate the Old Ironsides Bottle Shop.Fast forward to the nineties. The next generation of the Kanelos family stepped in and convinced their parents, Sam and Billee Jean, to turn Old Ironsides into a nightclub. Daughter Kim started by booking shows and a dance club called “The Voodoo Hut,” which brought in the younger crowd, while her sister Marla later joined her by booking the touring acts. What proved to be a great business decision, Old I continually hosts the best in local, national and international touring acts. Over the years it has hosted The Moe Betterman Show, similar to the “Tonight Show,” where famous comics such as Jay Mohr, Aisha Tyler, and Johnny Steele have appeared as regular guests. Famous bands that have played at Old I include Cake, Sublime, Oleander, Death Cab for Cutie, and Everclear, to name a few.These days Old Ironsides hosts weekly Guest Chef night, Karaoke, and the beloved open-mic nights. Shaun Slaughter and Roger Carpio’s Indie/rock dance club LIPSTICK has also been a staple at Old I for the last 13 years. The bottle shop closed in 1993 when Old I was remodeled to accommodate a stage and its growing nightclub business.Some eighty years later, lunch is still served at the Old Ironsides. Monday through Friday from 11am – 2pm. Old I features home-style lunches with a Greek/Italian influence. Daughter Janell ran the restaurant, while son Sam Jr. has been the general manager for the last 30 years. Keeping the family tradition alive, lunches are served by Summer and Stacey, granddaughters of Sam and Billee Jean. Much of the staff at Old Ironsides is also like family, as they have worked there for ten plus years. Familiar faces behind the bar include Art Rodriguez (31 years), and promoter Mark “Gonzo” Gonzales (10 years), and Chef Manolo Lopez (10 years) and Kevin Kobayashi (14 years) in the kitchen. Please come on in and say hi. Check out our Facebook page here for more information or give us call at (916) 443-9751.