Laughing in the Face of Prohibition

In Honky Tonk on 05/01/2010 at 8:42 am

Last night I met an old friend in San Marcos.  Dinner and drinks were supposed to be involved but I got stuck in traffic so we went straight to the drinks part.  Just past San Marcos, in a spit of a town, in Riley’s Tavern.

Billed as Texas’ first bar after Prohibition, the story goes like this: In September of 1933 J. C. Riley, at the age of 17, drove to Austin, Texas in a Model “T” car with his uncle. The purpose of this trip was to obtain a beer license for his soon – to – be beer joint at the end of prohibition. He camped out on the steps of the Capital building to be the first person in line and get the first Texas beer license.  Riley’s has been open ever since.

Inside, its a low-ceilinged place which is essentially three square rooms with the bar running the length of two.  This picture is from the end facing the door.  The first room has no tables but it open for band setup and dancing/ grooving.  The second room has six high, round tables, while the third has pool tables and pin ball machines.  Outside in the back are two shacks which contain the restrooms, labeled Mamas and Papas.  There is a nice seating area and a horseshoe pit.

This place definitely has its locals, like all good juke joints in small towns.  A solid mix of young, middle aged and already tipsy were chilling when we arrived at 7:30.  The volume increased as the night, and the band, wore on.  The beer was ice cold and the bartender was attentive without being annoying.  Small groups of people chatting, with minimal in and out.  It never got packed and vibe was still relaxed when we left, about 11:30.  On the way out, we chatted with an 80 year old lady sipping on a margarita, who told us how much she loves this place.  If that’s not a good enough endorsement, then sixth street is where you should be.


Armadillo facts: Only the 3-Banded Armadillo can roll itself into a ball for protection, all of the other 19 species use their speed and incredible digging abilities to escape predators.  They can hold their breathe for 6 minutes and are excellent swimmers.  If they can’t dig under something, armadillos will climb over it and are quite capable of scaling fences and trees.

I held a baby armadillo once.  It promptly peed on me.

  1. dear it is San Marcos. Remember it was named by the Spanish explorers and not after the department store in Dallas.

  2. You’re going to get leprosy from touching armadillos.

  3. You sure have me missing all of the goodness that is South Texas. I lived in Corpus for 15 years back in the ’80s. You have captured the textures and flavors of the place. I’ll be back to your blog, even if I have not been back to Texas for 10 years!

    • Thanks for the comment! I really appreciate Texas after living in other states and truly want to share it with the world! Once a Texan, always a Texan!

  4. […] TX when we decided whistles needed to be wetted.  Hunter is the home of Riley’s Tavern, previously mentioned in the blog in May 2010.  Despite the neon Open sign a blazing, they were having a staff meeting and shooed us away.  […]

  5. […] rodeo cold, the band didn’t stop and there was no place to sit, so we hightailed it to Happy Cow (Riley’s 1, Happy Cow 2).  Seating, cold beer, good quality music by Slim Bawb and that awesome pinball […]

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