A century old, Luckey’s is “a time capsule with a hip twist.”
Luckey’s Club Cigar Store is one of of the oldest business in downtown Eugene, and one of the oldest bars in Oregon. In operation since 1911, it has survived World War I, the Great Depression, Prohibition, World War II, “urban renewal,” the closing (and reopening) of the downtown mall and incredibly, Eugene’s smoking ban! Yes indeed, there is no smoking allowed in the oldest cigar store in Oregon. But in its place is a lively, happening downtown music venue which is now open to all, including women!
In the beginning…
The “Club Cigar,” as it was called in the late 1800′s, did not allow women patrons. It was a place for men to do men things. Tad Luckey, Sr., whose parents emigrated to Eugene from Londonderry, Ireland, purchased the business in 1911 and renamed it “Luckey’s Club Cigar Store.” A man could go to Luckey’s to shop for a cigar, shoot some pool, get a shoeshine haircut and shave, and order a sandwich at the cafe in the back. Over the years, it evolved into a place for older men. No whistling or loud talking were tolerated. It was quiet, smoky, and still. Aside from the murmur of smoke-cured voices, the only sound was the rifle crack of pool balls colliding. Anyone making loud noises was asked to leave.
Because Eugene was a dry town, Luckey’s was able to survive Prohibition fairly easily compared to the drinking establishments in neighboring Springfield. After Prohibition ended in 1933, Luckey’s became the first establishment in Lane County licensed by the newly formed Oregon Liquor Control Commission.
Luckey’s was once the home of the longest running rummy game in town, even after public card playing was outlawed. At the peak of card playing, the back room held two tables of poker and rummy players which were full from open to close. One card shark, Marion Mooney, played for 42 years straight and watched four people pass away right at the table in the middle of the game. “When a guy starts coughing, he’s asked to get out of the way if he’s going to die. And we kept the game going,” Mooney quipped.
In the mid 1930′s, Willamette Street went neon and Tad Luckey Sr. splurged on the original horseshoe-shaped Luckey’s neon sign, paying the outrageous sum of $300 in 1934, even though his wife found it quite garish. This sign now rests over the stage, inside the bar because city codes changed in the 1970′s and the sign was deemed too big for outdoor display. At the time, most businesses rented their neon signs, and this is one of the few that survived. In fact, it is the oldest neon sign known to exist in Eugene.
When Tad Luckey Sr. and co-owner Louis De Berg passed away in the 1940′s, they left the business in the hands of their widows, Maude Luckey and Lucinda (Luckey) De Berg. Even though women were not served at Luckey’s and there was no women’s restroom, these two women owned this “man’s resort” until the late 1950′s. Dave Anderson, a bartender at the time, claims his co-worker Les, known for his legenday crankiness, kept the women’s restroom locked with a sign on it that said “out of order.”
“If Les knew you real well and liked you, you got the key. Otherwise, he directed women across the street to use a restaurant’s bathroom,” claims Dave.
Of course, the fun at Luckey’s is enjoyed by women now too, and everyone loves our Ladies’ Night with $1 PABST PINTS for the ladies.
In 1973, “urban renewal” was sweeping the nation, and Eugene proceeded to demolish most of the graceful historic buildings downtown and erect garish concrete parking structures in their place. The owner of Luckey’s at the time, Ben Rayovich, purchased a dirt parking lot at 933 Olive St, and built an exact replica of the old Luckey’s. He moved, absolutely intact, all the furniture, fixtures, bar, ceiling fans, antique stained glass cigar sign, antique pool tables, and even the fir wainscoting into the new building. Based on the interior photos of the old place, he did an excellent job preserving the character of the original bar. Ben did add some modern amenities, such as a sprinkler system, heating and a/c, and (by order of the OLCC!) a women’s restroom.
Henry LaClair, the owner since 1983, put the bar up for sale in 2001, convinced the impending smoking ban in Eugene would bring an end to the Club Cigar. “How can you have a Cigar Store without smoking?” he asked.
A new host…
When the current owner, Jo Dee Moine, went to check out this business for sale, her first reaction upon entering the bar was “Wow!” As a fan of historical preservation, she was overwhelmed with the number of unique, functioning antiques. “I was immediately drawn to the aesthetic quality of the interior and the beautiful decor. There is nothing like it in Eugene, and very few old bars like it in Oregon. So much of it was perfectly preserved. I especially love the stained glass Cuban cigar sign above the bar which dates to 1904.”
Living up to its Luckey name, the smoking ban wasn’t the end of the bar. In fact, the new owner added a professional music stage and sound system and Luckey’s became one of the best music venues in Eugene. Consistently offering a strong lineup (click here for current schedule) of local and touring acts for cutting-edge, eclectic live music and performance events five to six nights a week. Many bands from all over the country have performed at Luckey’s, stopping in Eugene on their travels between San Francisco and Seattle. The crowd is younger and noisier, and no one gets tossed out for whistling! And while you can still buy cigars at Luckey’s, you just can’t smoke them inside.
Today, Luckey’s combines art nouveau decor, saloon sensibilities, serious pool players, cutting edge music, and a chair for everyone in the community. It still has echoes of the sounds, smells, pool games, and conversations from the past 100 years. It’s like a time capsule with a hip twist.
Thank you to all who helped put this historical record together:
- Jim Luckey
- Tad Luckey
- Dave Anderson
- Henry LaClair
- Dave Dingman
- MaryAnn Petersen
- The Lane County Historical Museum
…and the countless longtime customers who have told us their favorite Luckey’s stories.