Elbow Inn operators lose lease; owners will restore look to 1950s

Some good news and bad news emerged this week about the Elbow Inn in Devil’s Elbow, Missouri.

First, the bad news. The operators of the barbecue restaurant and tavern since 2006 stated in a Facebook post Thursday the owners gave them notice they “would like to take the place in a different direction” and that the Route 66 establishment is closed.

The good news is the Elbow Inn eventually will be reopened by the owners after a “face lift and rehabilitation” and want to restore it to its original Munger-Moss Sandwich Shop appearance of the 1950s.

In a statement to well-connected mid-Missouri roadie Jax Welborn, owners Jug and Carol Thompson denied rumors the Elbow Inn would be converted into a winery. They stated:

“The Elbow Inn will always embrace the history and be a part of the story of Route 66. And it will always be a bar. It’s just going to need a facelift and rehabilitation. The area will also be kept clean to preserve the beauty of the area.”

Welborn also posted this 1958 photo of the place, via the Thompsons:

The announcements within hours of each other were greeted with praise or derision, depending on loyalties. The Elbow Inn operators gutted and rebuilt the interior after a disastrous flood from the Big Piney River in 2017, thanks to donations and plenty of volunteer help. The Thompsons also didn’t charge rent during the downtime.

One of the most famous moments for the Elbow Inn was in 2015, when a couple of models from Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit edition posed on the bar’s pool table. It all was captured in a behind-the-scenes video but, alas, I’ve been unable to find it online.

The Elbow Inn long had been known for the hundreds of bras stapled to its ceiling. The bar — a favorite with locals, bikers, Fort Leonard Wood soldiers and Route 66 tourists — remains a focal point for the village.

The Elbow Inn originally was the Munger-Moss Sandwich shop that opened in 1936. Route 66 was realigned to the north during the 1940s, but Devil’s Elbow and the restaurant continued to hang in there as a picturesque town that found favor with tourists, especially canoeists.

UPDATE: Amanda Thompson sent Route 66 News a text shortly after this story was published. Here it is, in part:

I am the eldest granddaughter of Jug and Carol Thompson and am leading this family effort to rehabilitate the inn. I would like to mention that my grandparents have both passed on. Our family did financially contribute to the repairs after the flood, one of those contributions was the forgiveness of rent for more than 2 1/2 years. The lessees were frequently forgiven rent prior to the flood. The structure was not gutted and rebuilt. My great Grandfather Paul Thompson purchased the inn, in 1949 and it was called The Elbow Inn at the time. We do strive to restore it back to the way it looked then.

I’m going to post the full statements from the Elbow Inn and its owners after the jump.

The full statement from the Elbow Inn operators:

In 2006, The Elbow Inn Business was leased from Jug and Carol Thompson. From the very first day the doors opened, the Elbow began establishing friendships & relationships. Some that will last a lifetime. We would like to tell you that we love and appreciate all of you as well as your loyalty and support over the years. We will forever be grateful to have shared and experienced so many great memories with all of you within these walls.
We have had the honor of hosting some of the most important moments of your lives such as wakes, engagements, weddings, baby showers, birthday’s, holidays, promotions , retirements and much more. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your special days.
We are forever grateful for each and every one of our customers. To include, but not limited to, our military, biker community, tourists, out of towners, hunters, clubs and the local community. We’ve had some of the most amazing people walk through these doors and created some of the best relationships. So much to look back on and laugh & cry about. Thank you for allowing us to take so many wonderful memories away with us.
We have prided ourselves on trying our best to make everyone who walks through the doors feel welcomed and comfortable. So many of you have made us your home away from home and we are honored to have held that title. “The Misfits”
As much as it hurts our hearts to say this we regretfully have to inform you that the Thompson Family has decided that they would like to take the place in a different direction and have given us notice. Due to these unfortunate circumstances we have closed this location.
We thank all of you who have been and will remain our Elbow Family. We have been blessed with the best extended family anyone could ask for.
We will remain “Elbow Strong”.
We sincerely love and appreciate all of you.
– Your Elbow Family

The post by Jax Welborn via the Thompson family:

Hello Everyone,
After reading about the closure of the Elbow Inn in Devils Elbow, Missouri, I messaged members of the Thompson (owners of the property) family to seek more information.
Here is what I know:
The Elbow Inn will be reopened and the community that loves it will be welcomed. We are trying to restore it further and keep it true to the Munger Moss Sandwich Shop and Elbow Inn Route 66 history. We are trying to do what we believe will sustain the elbow in for generations to come!
There have been rumors of a winery. This will NOT be happening.
Instead here are the plans, “the Elbow Inn will always embrace the history and be a part of the story of Route 66. And it will always be a bar. It’s just going to need a facelift and rehabilitation. The area will also be kept clean to preserve the beauty of the area.”
We would love to see it looking more like it did in this picture from 1958.

(Image of the Elbow Inn in Devil’s Elbow, Missouri, in 2012 by JymPoiranges via Flickr; a 1958 image of the Elbow Inn via Jax Welborn and Tommy Thompson via Facebook)

32 thoughts on “Elbow Inn operators lose lease; owners will restore look to 1950s

  1. Garbage. I put blood, sweat, and alot of hours into the elbow inn. But for an owner to evict them to go a new direction is crap. Never once did they show up to lift a finger. Should have let the place fall in the river. But good luck passing the state inspection.

  2. JD thats Bollocks. It belongs to the Thompsons and always will. The managment skeeted by on the Thompsons good graces for years. Its about time they took it back over and revamped it. Im happy to hear the news.

  3. You obviously have NO CLUE cly…..not one single clue. The thompsons are greedy to the bone. That building doesn’t need revamped because it was taken down to the studs and redone with all new materials and looks better than it ever has….so dont comment on something you know nothing about.

  4. The thompsons didnt lift 1 single finger to help rebuild that place…..just gave some months of rent….big whoop

  5. If the place was completely gutted and rebuilt just over a couple of years ago and was ran as a successful and regulatory compliant business why wouldn’t it pass inspection now?

  6. So are the owners oblogated to rent out their property for all eternity to these people? Like if a person rents a house and while living there they replace the carpet it would be reasonable for them to say, nah this is ours house now. Or we’ve lived here so many years, it’s belongs to us?

  7. I totally understand your point. But to use the sweat of others to renovate your building as in volunteers is an understatement.

  8. JD I sure know how small towns work. So probably the former tenants got a pass on things they shouldn’t have for the business based on the good ol boy system? I get it. Maybe that’s part of the reason they lost the lease? I guess no one can know the real truth unless you’re them or the owners. From what I can gather the family of owners want to restore a building that is historic and I don’t see how that could hurt the town long term or be a bad thing for route 66. The building is almost 100 years old. Sounds like the granddaughter lost her grandparents. I can relate. Maybe her and her kin want to do right by their memory.

  9. The People Running it at the time used the sweat of the volunteers not the owners. Also I saw personally ” passionate volunteers including a manager” cursing and chasing off any volunteers that weren’t their own. And not to mention the several 100s of truckloads of gravel that were stolen and sold out from under the Thompsons, were talking 10s of thousands of dollars.

  10. NatureLovingGal you miss the point, so do the owners. I don’t think this has to do with giving the current leasers a pass on rent or whether or not the place will pass health code. The Elbow Inn is known worldwide for what it is NOW not what it was known for in 1958. To change it back to that incantation at this point will lose a lot of followers and lovers of the place. I for one, am very saddened to hear of this news. I have to wonder how often the OWNERS have actually been there when foreign tour groups or large groups of military personnel stop there and if they’ve seen their reactions to the place. I can’t believe if they understood how far and wide this place is known and beloved for what it is now, they would be taking this action at this time. Cleaning up I can get, but restoring it back to 1958? I don’t entirely.

    It’s like Bernie’s Bar in Avilla, MO … some places are the way they are for a reason. To try to “restore” them is to strip them of themselves. A case in point is the Mule Trading Post. The new owners I believe thought they were doing the right thing when they made the changes that have been made there. They bought the place, and that is their prerogative as owners, is to make it into what they want. But I can tell you, some of the groups I work with no longer stop there. Jerky isn’t on their radar as a “must-do” thing. They want the old, junky, tourist trap filled with all kinds of doo-dads to tempt dollars out of their pockets. And that is the gamble you take when you change anything.

    One thing for certain about this is: The one thing constant on Route 66 has always been change. And like it or not, change is going to happen. And if it works, something new – and hopefully wonderful – is born. If it doesn’t work … failure happens which will lead to yet more change.

  11. Tonya .. I totally see your point. Change happens. I think we should all hope that it’s a positive change for all involved. From all the things Uve heard and read online about the news it seems the family wants to resore the inn physically and are to run it as a bar/ bbq place. Don’t think they are trying to turn the clock back on how the place serves the community. Speaking from my personal opinion of the place …. we were there beginning of summer. I’d read about I before (as a place to see on 66) and we got there on a locals recommendation at the hotel we stayed at in town. Said they had the best bbq around. To be honest the first impression was not great. The bridge ,road and river are pretty but the inn was real run down. The roof looks like its collapsing in. There was a man out side smoking meat I guess, in a large propane tank next to an open dumpster. There was trash littered everywhere out front. Cigarette butts, cans, just general trash. My husband didn’t want to go in but the kids were hungry so we did. The people were real friendly inside. But it wasn’t very clean inside either. It was dark, smelly, and dirty. My 12 year old daughter was confused by the bras hanging from the ceiling which made her and me uncomfortable. We took some pictures and went back in town to eat at the cracker barrel. We didn’t want to eat anything there. What as shame we thought, such a unique and gorgeous location. I think the change coming is great news and probably much needed. I wish the family all success.

  12. Not sure about the cussing at people part because I didnt hear it or I wasnt working on that part. For the gravel. The county used most of it and had to be moved to put new power poles in. The gravel bed was 9 feet above the original ground. I can’t speak on the other part because I dont know.

  13. So as for the cussing at volunteers I never heard it. Again not defending but I personally didn’t. For not structuring the place. It had dropped towards the river and a group jacked it up to a quarter of an inch from level. As for the gravel. I watched county trucks come in and load several days. The gravel bar was at 7 feet high above the original ground. And was cleared to give access back to the river. For the sale portion I have no clue as I was there to rebuild.

  14. Personally without the bikers and locals it will be the end of our elbow. Turning it back to a sandwich shop is a travesty that will cause it to go broke and close up. It needs to stay the way it is . Loved and a destination for bikers from all over the world to stop at while travelling rt66 .

  15. The owners can do whatever they want with their building…they own it. Sad that the Elbow is closed but they don’t own the building. They could relocate their business. Not sure why so many want to make an argument out of it.

  16. Terry … from all I’ve read here and other places they have no plans to turn it into a sandwich shop. Says everywhere it will remain a roadhouse bar welcome to all, bikers included. Which is good for us because next summer we’d like to ride down and see it and actually get to eat there. After reasurching the history of the place seems this family has had it since the 1940s or something. I don’t think it’s ever been vacant.

  17. Correct me if I’m wrong but the article states the “owners Jug and Carol said in a statement” but aren’t they deceased? Way to capitalize off their good fortune.

  18. JH I think the error is corrected if you read further down regarding Jug and Carol. That family has owned the property since the 40s.

  19. So you brought a 12 year old into a bar that is world renowned for the bras on the ceiling and then complain that she was uncomfortable…..in a bar? Does anyone else see anything up with that?

  20. Funny how a flood brings gravel that built up and the fact that something nature piled up and put on the way becomes property of owners who arent even in state and then because the gravel gets used by the county, all of a sudden the leasees are the ones to blame?

    Then when it comes to the roof looking like it is falling in, the owners of the building refused to out a single dollar into the building but sure want their monthly lease payment……

    As a landlord myself, I see lots of issues there. Oh well, I for one wont spend another dollar in the elbow inn. Terry and Susie made that place what it is today and it is because of them and the staff that people stop from all over the world.

    Terry sat down and told the history of the area to travelers and the staff made them comfortable to stay. I should know, I have grown up in the area.

  21. It was listed as a bar & bbq restaurant and a route 66 tourist destination. People tour with thier kids and grandkids. It’s a missed opportunity to not cater to those folks, (who actually spend money), in favor of being “famous” for stapling dirty bras to the ceiling if a historic building. It’s kinda juvenile and frankly, disrespectful of the history of the place.

  22. I read the didn’t pay rent for over 2 years. Say the rent is 900 a month. Which is like nothing for commercial bar/restaurant space, that would be nearly 22k alone. You say they got no money from the owners but how do you know that? If your not one or the other, you wouldn’t. The bar managers mustve had insurance on the contents, sold gravel, had dontationed money, labor and supplies. Based on the condition I saw the building in, and what I see of Facebook now, its looks like the pocketed money instead if repairing things. Seems shady to me. The whole thing. I’m sure the managers were nice to you, but that doesn’t change the fact that the place was gross & property owners can do what they want with their own land.

  23. Travelled R66 with the Irish66ers between 2004 and 2012. We are a group of Irish bikers who bike from Chicago to LA every 2 years to raise funds for a children’s hospital in Ireland. The elbow Inn was one of our favourite stops along the way. Here’s hoping it survives, some great memories from this stop on the journey of life.

  24. My Lord…You have literally no clue what you’re talking about. The owners have never left state and several of them are literally within a few hundred yards of the Elbow Inn because they live in Devil’s Elbow, and always have.

    It was not rebuilt to the studs, either. The original ceiling from the 1940’s is still there for crying out loud, covered up with particle board, haha. The Roberson’s were forgiven tens of thousands of dollars and they were illegally operating the Inn at the time of eviction. They owed the state back sales taxes upwards of $50k, haha. And yes, the gravel IS the Thompson’s property. They own pretty much all the land behind the Inn and even most of the mountain that overlooks it.

    Not sure who you are or who you THINK you are, but you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.

  25. Wow, a lot of bickering and arguing from 2019 on, but the question is – what is the status?

    If the building is just going to sit there, it will become unusable, if it isn’t already.

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