The Lincoln Lounge and some of its Lincolns. Photo by me.
My favorite bar closed its doors on June 30.
I have two conflicting emotions about this: I feel bad (duh) but I also feel bad about feeling bad. Given literally everything currently going on in the world, feeling bummed about your favorite bar shutting down feels embarrassingly trivial. That being said, it is a place that is strongly associated with a handful of close friends of mine, one of whom is no longer with us. It really does feel like I can’t go home again.
Lincoln first opened in 2008 but I didn’t become a regular visitor until 2010; maybe 2011. While living in Reno, it was my go-to spot. Somewhere along the way, I became a member of its fabled Mug Club; to join you had to drink all of their beers (initially 70 but it grew to more than a hundred) within the span of a year. For your efforts, you were awarded your own mug and a t-shirt. It felt impressive at the time, though in retrospect it doesn’t feel like that much of an accomplishment. Are you willing to spend tons of money on beer and also to drink it? If yes, then you have what it takes to join the Mug Club.
Granted, that one year deadline sneaks up on you much faster than you anticipate. There were times when I went to some fairly ludicrous lengths to keep myself on schedule. On multiple occasions, I would park my car at my fraternity’s house, walk into Downtown Reno, go to Lincoln and knock anywhere from three to four beers off the list and then I’d stumble back to the house and crash on the couch. I ended up finishing with about a week left, and I drank the last seven beers in one night.
It was worth it, I swear.
In addition to my ascension into the club, Lincoln saw host to my informal graduation party in December of 2012, my moving away party almost exactly a year later and at least one spirited game of darts with the roommates. It was also the site of my first – and so far, only – puke and rally, which was immediately followed by a brief nap on the pool table. It’s that kind of place.
I’ve been back in the Bay Area for the last five years, so opportunities to drink at Lincoln have been scarce. I typically made a point to visit at least once whenever I was in town. The coolest thing to happen there recently was when I popped in around midnight right after seeing Mastodon at the Reno Ballroom (an awesome show despite the terrible venue) and I was promptly recognized as a club member and had my beer served in a mug. That night might have been perfect.
When I heard Lincoln was shutting down, I felt like I had no choice. I absolutely had to drive up to Reno for its last two nights in business. June 29 was the last ever Soul Night (DJ’d soul and funk music from the ’60s and ’70s, dancing, etc) and June 30 featured an album release party for a local band called Pink Awful. I had never been to either a Soul Night (Lincoln didn’t allow patrons to work on their Mug Club lists on those nights, so fuck that) or a record release party, so I got two new experiences out of this sendoff.
It’s not a massive place, but Lincoln got a huge turn out for the last Soul Night. Even Pink Awful (they were fine) managed to pull in a respectably sized audience. I didn’t realize just how many people could fit in that establishment until last weekend. I managed to meet up with four friends and even ran into a fifth whom I hadn’t seen in forever. We had a jolly time; I even got a couple of free green tea shots out of it.
Long live the Lincoln Lounge.