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August 1, 2013 at 10:34 AM
The DeLuxe celebrates 50 years on Capitol Hill
Recognize this corner storefront?
Once upon a time it was known as Thomas McClanahan’s Beer Parlor. It’s been a tavern on and off since 1934, but lately—for half a century to be exact—it’s been owned by the Rogel family. Chances are you’ve raised a glass at the bar, or had a burger, or demolished a baked potato that weighed roughly two pounds loaded (possibly you were also loaded at the time). Here’s what this place at the corner of Broadway and E. Roy looks like today:
When Joe Rogel bought The DeLuxe Bar & Grill in 1963, he says he did it out of desperation. He was a traveling shoe salesman with five kids when he decided to switch careers and stay at home.
“It was one of the few taverns in those days offering food,” recalls the dapper octogenarian. “As the years went by we expanded and made it more of an eating establishment, which it is today.”
On the original menu, a New York steak cost $2.60, that enormous baked potato just 35 cents. Beer was 15 cents a glass or a quarter for a large one. A burger would set you back 85 cents.
Old photos show the windows boarded and curtained to comply with the Blue Laws of the time. It’s a bit hard to imagine, in this era of legalized pot, but once bars were required to cover their windows so that minors couldn’t catch a glimpse of the drinking going on inside.
“You couldn’t look into the place at all,” says Joe. “In addition you had to close at midnight on Saturday, and all day Sunday. Hours were 6 a.m.-2 a.m. other days.”
Barry Rogel, Joe’s son, owns The DeLuxe today. He remembers when those laws began to relax and on Sundays you could open at two p.m.
“If we behaved ourselves mom would let us go in and help get the restaurant set up. But we had to be out by two. I was having a blast setting up the salt and pepper shakers, getting the pool tables brushed down. Later in life when I tried that with my own kids, they said, do we get paid for that? Aren’t there laws against that? They’re smarter than I am.”
Barry started working at the restaurant in the 1980s, post law school. “Dad handed me a mop and bucket and said you’re the janitor. His logic was impeccable. If the janitor doesn’t show up and the place isn’t clean, you’re not getting the door open.”
As Capitol Hill has changed over the decades so has The DeLuxe. A Class H license secured in 1978 allowed them to serve spirits. Cocktails with names like “The Temptress,” “Cool Cat” and “Man Eater” were popular in that era. A buck-fifty bought a margarita
Remodels occur about every 13 or 14 years, says Barry. “We don’t reinvent, we tweak. The market keeps changing and we need to figure out how to keep up. I want to keep it going for as long as there’s a place on Capitol Hill for The DeLuxe and as long as it can be The DeLuxe. That’s the trick. The DeLuxe is a neighborhood place that wants nothing more than to be a neighborhood place.”
Is there a third generation waiting to pick up the mop and bucket? Barry’s three daughters, who range in age from teens to early twenties, have yet to commit.
The DeLuxe is celebrating their 50th anniversary by offering an “Old School” burger for $1.99 and a schooner of Rainier for $1.50. Joe and Barry invite all those with a connection to The DeLuxe to a party on August 15, “to raise a glass to the venerable watering hole and to everyone who has kept it going all these years.”
Last weekend Joe and Barry shared more stories about The DeLuxe on “Let’s Eat.” You can listen to the podcast of the interview here. Post your own favorite memories below.
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