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Monday, October 19, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Iconic Spokane watering hole Checkerboard Bar on East Sprague closed pending sale

UPDATED: Tue., Jan. 14, 2020

The Checkerboard Bar, at 1716 E. Sprague Ave., which claims to have the oldest liquor license in Spokane, has closed and is listed for sale. (THOMAS CLOUSE / SR)
The Checkerboard Bar, at 1716 E. Sprague Ave., which claims to have the oldest liquor license in Spokane, has closed and is listed for sale. (THOMAS CLOUSE / SR)

The pool table has fallen silent. The liquor bottles, many half full, remain standing at attention. But, the padlock on the door and the massive “For Sale” sign at one of Spokane’s iconic watering holes foretells a different future.

The Checkerboard Bar, which has eased its patrons’ pain and lubricated their joys on East Sprague since the end of Prohibition in 1933, has been closed since late November and is looking for a new owner. The listing price is $255,000, which includes the building and whatever is left in the bottles.

The listing agent, Elizabeth Bendinelli, said interest has been brisk.

“I pretty much had an unintentional open house on Friday,” Bendinelli said. “I had showings from 9:30 until 5 at night … every half hour. I don’t think it will be long before there is a new owner and it will be up and running again.”

The building was erected in 1928 and the bar’s Facebook page claims it got its first liquor license in 1933, making it the oldest continuous license in the state. Prohibition officially ended in December 1933. Efforts to verify the claim were unsuccessful.

Whatever the history, the Checkerboard, at 1716 E. Sprague Ave., has a Facebook page full of happy patrons and pictures of local bands that tell their own story.

The sale apparently includes the “Revenge from Mars”’ pinball machine and oversized chess set and pool table. Capacity of the bar, handwritten on a placard still leaning in the front window, is 49.

“We have a neighborhood bar feeling with easy access to downtown & freeway,” the bar’s Facebook page reads. “Never any beef here, come as you are!”

The bar’s current owner, Chris Wilde, did not return messages seeking comment.

Bendinelli said the bar owner fell on tough times following the construction on East Sprague that reduced traffic to the watering hole. One of the featured events was “$1 pint night.”

Wilde’s former partner, Ian Maye, said he owned and operated the bar for about eight years before he and Wilde had a falling out.

“I tried to keep the bar focused on entertainment and fun. A hard-fought eight years,” Maye wrote in response to a reporter’s questions. “They did not last a year without me. Although it is bittersweet payback, I find no joy. I’m so sad that this important piece of Spokane history has ended its legacy as the oldest continuing liquor license in Washington state.

“I will forever hold the Checkerboard Tavern dear to my heart.”

Bendinelli said the new owners would have to apply for a new liquor license under their names. Since the current license is active, “it would be granted because it’s an existing bar,” she said.

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