November 24, 2016

Luckey's Club Cigar Store in Eugene, Oregon

Luckey's Club Cigar Store

photo by: Katelynn Erb

This neon sign has been a part of Luckey's Club Cigar Store since 1934.

Never mind that you can’t actually smoke a cigar inside Luckey’s Club Cigar Store in Eugene, Oregon. For this bar—one of the oldest businesses in downtown Eugene and one of the oldest bars in the entire state—a little thing like a city-wide smoking ban couldn’t slow it down.

After all, Luckey’s has been through a lot since it first opened in the late 1800s. Back then, it was called The Club Cigar. Only men were allowed inside. That tradition carried on well into the 20th century, when, in 1911, a man by the name of Tad Luckey Sr. purchased the business and gave it its current name. Under Luckey’s supervision, men were welcomed inside to purchase cigars, shoot pool, and get a haircut and a shoeshine. It was a quiet place, with some funny rules: Whistling and loud talking were not allowed.

Back then, Eugene was a dry town, so Luckey’s sailed through Prohibition relatively unscathed. But after Prohibition’s repeal in 1933, Luckey’s became the first business in the county to get a license from the new Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

Another exciting change came around that same time. By then, the whole downtown area was going neon. Tad Luckey Sr. joined the fun, hanging a new horseshoe-shaped neon sign outside.

In the 1940s, Tad Luckey Sr. and co-owner Louis De Berg died. The business was passed on to their wives, Maude Luckey and Lucinda De Berg. It was an interesting development, considering women still were not served in the bar. There wasn’t even a women’s restroom. But Maude and Lucinda held down the fort until the 1950s.

The bar faced a series of blows in the 1970s. Around that time, city codes changed, and Luckey’s signature neon sign was ruled too big to be displayed outside. So it moved indoors.

But more dramatically, in the wake of nationwide urban renewal projects, the city of Eugene began demolishing many of its downtown buildings and replacing them with parking structures. Sensing the threat to the bar, then-owner Ben Rayovich purchased a dirt lot nearby and built an exact replica of Luckey’s. He relocated all the furniture, fixtures, pool tables, stained glass, and, of course, that neon sign into the new space. He used old photographs to set up the new space almost exactly as it was originally. Rayovich did make one key change, however: He added a women’s restroom.

Then came the smoking ban. In 2001, then-owner Henry LaClair was convinced that the ban would ruin the business, so he put the bar up for sale. That’s when Jo Dee Moine stepped in. Moine, a preservation enthusiast, was blown away by the bar’s sense of history and all of its old elements. (Rayovich had even brought over Luckey’s original fir wainscoting for the new space.)

Under Moine’s watch, the smoking ban did nothing to diminish Luckey’s popularity. A performance stage and state-of-the-art sound system was added, turning the bar into a live music venue and attracting bands from all across the country. Customers can still purchase cigars there, too, but they have to be smoked outside.

And unlike its earliest days, no one gets kicked out for talking above a whisper.

Location: 933 Olive St, Eugene, OR 97401

Hours: noon to 2:30 a.m. daily

You’re Having: Ladies, after years of being turned away from Luckey’s, you can now enjoy Absolut Vodka-based drinks for $3.50 on Tuesdays, when the bar celebrates Ladies’ Night.

Fun Fact: Luckey’s was once the home of the longest-running rummy game in town: A man by the name of Marion Mooney played for 42 years.

Best Yelp Review: “Luckey's is my favorite bar in Eugene, and apparently the oldest. That's probably why I like it so much... it's got soul to go along with those spirits.

Luckey's Club Cigar Store

photo by: tomstar3000/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Today, Luckey's Club Cigar Store is a popular live music venue in downtown Eugene, Oregon.

Lauren Walser is 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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