The iconic Carbondale saloon may be down, but it’s certainly not out. After 36 years, only a global pandemic could have caused the temporary shuttering of this quintessential watering hole and rodeo bar.
As long time owner Sue Rodgers confirmed, “The Pour House is here to stay.”
Rodgers explained the Pour House closed even before state, county and local government orders.
“I was very concerned about the health of employees and customers,” Rodgers said, adding, the bar closed as soon as everyone realized COVID-19 was going to be a major health issue.
By doing this, she stated, “Our employees were able to get unemployment assistance.”
Rodgers bought the bar initially as a co-owner in 2005 with the late John Martin. Rodgers and Martin, both ranchers and history buffs,wanted to help preserve the ranching and agricultural history of the area.
The many photos and historical items covering the walls captured much of the local lore, including souvenirs brought from miners who travelled over McClure Pass.
Rodgers was born into a ranching family. Growing up, she overcame existing male/female conventions and learned to wrangle horses, brand cattle and bale hay on her dad’s South Park, Colorado ranch. In 1987, she began running the family’s Carbondale Crystal River Ranch and was motivated to expand the operation. She grew the herd of 34 animals into a successful business now boasting 1700 head of cattle.
She is one the many women who represent the long tradition of operating ranching and agricultural enterprises in Colorado and has weathered the many challenges facing both cowboys and cowgirls.
Among her numerous awards, she is exceptionally proud of receiving the Citizen of the West Award at the National Western Stock Show, and was the first woman to do so. This honor is presented annually to those who continue the pioneer commitment and grit so entwined with the culture of the once wild west.
The Pour House first came to town in 1984 with owner and manager Skip Bell, now retired in Redstone. According to the book “The Pour House, a Colorado Saloon,” edited by Bell, he bought the building with the goal of opening a bar/restaurant which still operates at 351 Main St.
“It’s the kind of place I’ve always dreamed about,” Bell recalled.
Bell brought pieces of Aspen with him when he opened the saloon: beautifully carved wood furniture from the original Chart House, the bar from the Jerome B. Wheeler Public House, and the tables from Galena Street East. The antique back bar was imported from an old hotel in southern Arizona.
Prior to Bell taking over the property, the space housed The Dusty Rose and Kenney’s Pharmacy, but it has a long history stretching back to the 1880s, with establishments like Twin Valley Service Center and the Woody Economy Stores Company, Sherwood Theater, Fred Needham’s Machine Shop and Jack Ferguson’s Shell Oil.
Even though the Carbondale Wild West Rodeo is on hiatus due to the pandemic, the Pour House is still known as one of the prime after-rodeo venues. Thursday nights (on the usual rodeo calendar), patrons mingle with a variety of wranglers, ranchers and families, many of whom are there to absorb the western Colorado experience.
Midge Wampler, a 23-year Pour House employee working now with manager Tim Mason, said she is very proud of the philanthropy and open doors of the saloon.
When will the Pour House welcome thirsty locals and visitors?
“We’re still in a time of uncertainty,” Rogers explained, “But, we’ll be back.”