Route 66 News

Historic Bernalillo bar isn’t closed, but it’s for sale

The historic Silva’s Saloon along old Route 66 in Bernalillo, N.M., isn’t closed (contrary to rumor), but the owner confirmed to Albuquerque Business First the business indeed is for sale.

Owner Denise Silva told the newspaper the bar will stay open until it sells “or until both of us die” — referring to co-owner Felix Silva Jr., 81, her father.

The bar, which has been family-owned and operated since 1933, is unique in several ways.

The purchase price of $995,000 not only includes the bar operation, but an adjacent half-acre of land and a full bar/package liquor license. Also included in the purchase price are decades of Route 66-style memorabilia that have been collected by the owners and left by patrons.

“We are looking for someone who would respect the 80 years of our being here. People come from all over the world and the country, especially in the summer — those that follow Route 66. We are one of the lone family-owned businesses that are on the route,” Silva, a retired Albuquerque Public Schools teacher, said. […]

“It would require some remodel, but the liquor license alone is probably worth $500,000,” he said.

Silva’s Saloon sits on the 1926-37 alignment of Route 66, known as the Santa Fe Loop. Because the bar actually dates to the time when Route 66 ran by its front door, you’re getting a real article from the Mother Road when you visit.

This terrific video tells about the bar’s old bootlegging history, its memorabilia and its one-of-a-kind character:

An excellent feature article about Silva’s from 2012 is here. An excerpt:

There may be antiques, but no decorator has ever put his or her stamp on Silva’s. The best way to describe the look of the place is “organic.” There are license plates, hats, photos of celebrities, memorials to regulars who have shuffled off this mortal coil, an old pack of Chesterfields, a pair of rubber S & M boots, alcohol advertisements, sports regalia, a wooden hand giving a disembodied finger.

A Green Bay Packers “cheese-head” evidences the Vikings/Packers rivalry that exists among a few patrons. People write messages on dollar bills that Felix Jr. affixes to any available spot on the wall. And then, of course, there are the velvet paintings of voluptuous naked women. Denise says they come from formerly single married patrons who couldn’t bear to completely part with them.

You can understand why movie and television crews have used this place as a backdrop over the decades. The romantic comedy Animal Behavior starring Karen Allen and Armand Assante was filmed primarily at the University of New Mexico, but a scene was shot at Silva’s. Denise says Julia Roberts served as Allen’s understudy, and an aged photo of a very young Roberts is tacked to the wall. An episode of the old detective show “Mannix” was filmed here as well. The Silvas would welcome more film crews—just as long as they don’t disturb the decor.

The real-estate listing for the bar is here.

(Hat tip to David “Willy” Willman)


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