Have you seen this place? You probably have. If you haven’t, you’ve probably heard of it. Sketchy bar, down on a “scary” part of Sprague… looks small from the outside. Well, if that’s all you know about the Checkerboard Bar then you’ve obviously never stepped foot inside.
According to their website Checkerboard Bar is, “both a local monument and an historic business. Located on Sprague Ave in East Central since 1933, the Checkerboard opened on the heels of prohibition and now boasts the longest continuous liquor license in the state of Washington.”
Pretty cool, right? Now let’s talk about what Checkerboard Bar is all about now. I had the opportunity to speak with Ashley Maye who is one of the owners of Checkerboard Bar. I wanted to know a bit of history, and particularly wanted to know more about the amazingly unique atmosphere they have created in this historic bar… here is what she had to say!
“We purchased the Checkerboard as a distressed property 2 1/2 years ago. This former speak easy has been in business nearly 90 years. The bar’s rich history had been somewhat marred by the run down infrastructure and high crime area where the bar is located. Formally a tavern, we upgraded our liquor license and now have the largest selection of quality spirits in Spokane. Quality is a major deal at the Checkerboard and you will taste the difference. From burgers to mixers we use only the best ingredients to satisfy even the most critical of patrons. For the last couple years we have been growing the music scene at the bar to include everything from A cappella to rock. Occasionally we even have a show on the Gazebo located in our beer garden, which is always a pleaser in those great summer nights. Have you ever met someone for the first time and within one hour of getting to know them you feel like you have actually known them for years? That’s what you get at the Checkerboard, a chill relaxing place, friendly atmosphere and a lot of awesome memories. Our commitment to safety and atmosphere has resulted in a stress free environment. “leave the beef at home.”
She’s not kidding, the music here is ridiculously eclectic. In fact, I would never have given this bar a chance had I not been playing with a noise band that was booked there (see?!)
Since then I have attended several concerts ranging from contemporary jazz to the prog/metal/rock group East of the Wall who you can see performing below.
As per Facebook followers’ requests, I have to mention the tables which are actual checkerboards so you can chill out, enjoy the music, and play chess and checkers anywhere you sit! In that same vein, you can spend hours gazing at every piece of nostalgia hanging on their walls. From old landscapes (as seen behind the band) to pieces of 1940’s – 50’s style kitschy decor (as seen below) there’s always something that grabs your attention.
(I should probably mention that Coke is not really 5 cents there…)
If you haven’t given this bar a chance, you’re missing out on the opportunity to have a really unique experience at one of Spokane’s greatest hidden treasures. From the patrons to the bartenders and the pool tables to the wall décor, Checkerboard Bar has an atmosphere that is so different, so comfortable and so unexpectedly alluring, you can’t quite define it in one word.
If you haven’t checked out the Checkerboard Bar yet, here’s your opportunity! Here are a few of the events they have coming up, and with such a varied selection, I’m sure you can find at least one that fits your style!
June 20th 8:00 pm – Joe & Vicki Price & Clint Darnell
June 21st 10:00 am – 21 Windows 21 Garnish Bloody Mary Bar
June 21st 8:00 pm – Slip Stream
June 23rd 6:00 pm – Checkerboard Ghost Tour
June 24th 9:00 pm – Captain Algebra & Hot Hoodoo
June 26th 12:00 pm – 2nd Annual Budge Brothers Brewery $1 PINTS TAP TAKEOVER