The Old Ironsides bar and restaurant is celebrating its 88th anniversary this year. The family owned and operated establishment opened in 1934 as the very first business to obtain a liquor license in Sacramento after Prohibition. Now, 88 years later, the Old Ironsides is the oldest bar in Sacramento and is best known for its nightly live music, deeeelicious lunches, friendly staff and cheap drinks. It was recently named by Yahoo! as the best dive bar in Sacramento.
At the close of prohibition in 1933, William Bordisso was issued the first liquor license in Sacramento County. In 1934 he established the Old Ironsides here at Tenth and “S” Streets.
He fostered the relaxed neighborhood atmosphere that the Old Ironsides offers to this day. 84 years later, the Bordisso/Kanelos family continues this tradition of serving good food and drink in a friendly, family atmosphere.
The Old Ironsides was established in 1934 with William “Bill” Bordisso obtaining the first liquor license issued 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 than 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 1960’s, 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.”