September 25, 2014

The Corner Club in Moscow, Idaho

The Corner Club sign at night

photo by: Marc Trivelpiece/The Corner Club

The Corner Club has been a Moscow, Idaho, institution since 1948.

A man and his horse walk into a bar. The man orders two beers: one for him, one for his horse.

If you think I’m setting up a joke, you can stop waiting for the punch line. This is a true story from one day in the history of the Corner Club, a beloved 66-year-old sports bar in Moscow, Idaho.

“Since 1948, it’s just been crazy stories like that,” says the Corner Club’s co-owner Marc Trivelpiece.

Trivelpiece laughs as he recounts another tale from the Corner Club’s history, of a man who would challenge his fellow bar patrons to a beer chugging contest. Their opponent? His sheep.

The sheep won every time.

The Corner Club wedding photo

photo by: Marc Trivelpiece/The Corner Club

Two Corner Club bartenders celebrate at the bar shortly after tying the knot.

The original Corner Club building held several functions: a brewery, a bakery, a restaurant, and a chapel, until finally, in 1948, Gene “Hermie” Goetz and Neal Lynd turned the space into a bar.

“It started as a neighborhood bar for guys to get away from their wives,” Trivelpiece says.

Over time, though, the old locals-only ethos of the bar faded, and it became a bona fide college sports bar. It’s decked out top to bottom in University of Idaho Vandals gear and memorabilia. On game day, fans stand elbow to elbow to cheer for their team.

The Corner Club brick

photo by: Marc Trivelpiece/The Corner Club

At 11 feet, 6 inches off the ground, this brick above the Corner Club’s entrance commemorates one of the bar’s more famous stories: the story of The Nail.

The Corner Club sports display

photo by: Marc Trivelpiece/The Corner Club

The Corner Club is the go-to place in Moscow to cheer for the University of Idaho Vandals.

And there’s another, perhaps more famous, story in the Corner Club’s history books: the story of The Nail.

It began one night in 1963, when Goetz challenged the Vandals’ star basketball player, Gus Johnson, to show off his legendary jumping abilities. Johnson leaped 11 feet, 6 inches in the air, touching one of the ceiling beams. Goetz marked the spot with a nail and announced that anyone who could leap that high would drink for free.

It didn’t happen again until 1986, when a member of the College of Southern Idaho’s basketball team touched -- and bent -- the nail after three tries.

Unfortunately, the nail no longer hangs above the Corner Club’s patrons. Part of the building was razed in the early ‘90s, leaving only the cinderblock addition (which was added to the original building decades after it was first built). But today, there’s a brick marked symbolically over the entrance of the bar, at the same height as the original nail.

“If someone wanted to try it, and if they could touch it, sure, I’d buy them a couple drinks,” Trivelpiece says.

The Corner Club sign during the day

photo by: Marc Trivelpiece/The Corner Club

There are more than two dozen beers on tap. Customers can order their beers in 32-ounce “tubs.”

Are you up for the challenge? Here’s what you need to know before you take your best jump:

Location: 202 N. Main St., Moscow, ID 83843

Hours: Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 2 a.m.

When to Go: On Wednesdays, the bar serves free peanuts. Deposit the shells on the floor. (It’s not rude; it’s tradition.) Or if happy hour is more your speed, head over Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. for drink specials. The fairer sex can take advantage of cheap drinks on Thursdays, when Ladies Night runs from 6 p.m. on.

Number of TVs: Nine. “We can show every NFL game, every Sunday,” Trivelpiece says.

What to Order: When University of Idaho alumni of a certain age visit the bar, they reach for a Ranier. “That was their youth,” Trivelpiece says, noting that when he started working at the Corner Club in the 1990s, Ranier and Bud Light were the only beers on tap. “But today, we have many more beers on tap, and 30 or 40 bottles and cans you can choose from,” he says. “Whatever floats your boat, we got it.” Oh, and you can order your beers in 32 oz. plastic “tubs.”

Best Yelp Review: “If you ever needed to know about the popularity of this place, just try to get in the door on any given weekend or after a Vandal football game. … This place is THE Vandal bar in town.”

Notable Honor: Sports Illustrated named the Corner Club its West Region Selection on its Best Sports Bars in America list in 2013.

Another Notable Honor: ESPN magazine declared a visit to the Corner Club one of the "99 Things to Do Before You Die."

Fun Fact: Co-owner Marc Trivelpiece met his wife and fellow co-owner at the Corner Club. “It wasn’t a very hard sell for my wife when I said, “Hey, what do you think about going back [to Moscow] and buying the Corner Club?’” he says, adding, “Some of my best memories have happened here.”

Lauren Walser served as the Los Angeles-based field editor of Preservation magazine. She enjoys writing and thinking about art, architecture, and public space, and hopes to one day restore her very own Arts and Crafts-style bungalow.

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