Goodnight Raleigh - a look at the art, architecture, history, and people of the city at night

The Player’s Retreat – Oldest Bar In Raleigh

Any time an organization or establishment uses the phrase “the oldest ___ in ___”, there is bound to be controversy. The title “Oldest bar in Raleigh” is no exception. Mitch claims as much for his bar, near the spot on the menu that also mentions the appearance in Bull Durham. While it may be the oldest bar that is still in the original structure, the Jolly Knave was sold to Mitch after the PR was established. Red’s, also owned by Mitch, has been closed for more than 30 years. Another local bar that claims the title is The Office Tavern. There seems to be dispute because they relocated from five points to the Johnson Street location long ago.

It seems as though any person that has lived in Raleigh for a significant amount of time knows the inside of Player’s Retreat. The web site states that it is a Raleigh tradition since 1951.
While I haven’t lived in Raleigh very long, this place is special to me too. Once I had an instructor who moved class to this location to discuss topics over drinks–before noon! In addition to the history of the place, there is something special about the atmosphere too. Similar to Mitch’s, it is chock full of eye candy attached to the walls with phrases such as Our waitresses go from zero to bitch in four seconds. It is quite large inside, especially given the location. It has a decently sized pool room, a separate dining room, outdoor seating, and a spacious bar.

One of the most interesting parts of the PR is the computer with free internet access and printer. The internet (Google in particular) has made us realize that any disagreement over a fact, figure, or history item can be settled in a matter of seconds with almost zero effort. Coffee/tea houses, restaurants, and bars in particular have always been filled with people having philosophical debates of every variety. This frequently leads to one person disagreeing with another person’s presentation of the facts of an event. By placing a computer with internet access and a printer for free public use, you are assured there will never be a conversation’s completion left hanging upon promises of future consultation with Google or Wikipedia. As far as I know, it is the only bar in the area with a free public computer.

Bert, one of the PR’s bartenders, was wearing a shirt that said Beer – it’s not just for breakfast anymore. He’s been around for quite some time and has some unique information on the cultural history of Raleigh. He told me stories of a bar on Hillsborough Street with a swimming pool, the old headshop underneath of Daryl’s (now Red Hot & Blue), and some of the large name musical acts that came through Raleigh in the mid 70s to early 80s. When asked about Mitch’s claim about being the oldest bar in Raleigh, he stated that

Mitch’s isn’t the oldest bar and he knows it. It’s been around for 30 years. There is some debate about The Office Tavern, but they moved across town.

With an established reputation for great food, vegetarian options, the largest selection of single malt scotches in North Carolina, fantastic drink specials, and a well designed web site–they have all of the ingredients for the the best bar in Raleigh.

What are some of your memories of the Player’s Retreat?

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