By Heidi Bunch/MCIN
“Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name…”
After 74 years of serving customer’s cold beers – Joe’s Tavern officially locked the doors on Monday, June 24.
The Hawthorne landmark, sold in 2015 to Cashell Enterprises, nailed a notice to the door which read, “Joe’s Tavern & Casino has closed effective June 24, 2019 at 8:30 a.m.”
The Early Years
In April of 1945, after managing the El Capitan and Ike’s Place, Guiseppe Joe Viani became the proprietor of Joe’s Tavern situated in heart of Hawthorne, by purchasing the then Ike’s Place. Here, the elder Joe would advertise choice liquors, dancing and gaming. He would work the bar until his son; Joseph “Joe” Alvise Viani, Jr. took over the establishment.
Known fondly as “Joe’s Gym” Joe took no guff from those who frequented his establishment yet the University of Nevada, Reno football player and U.S. Army soldier had a tender heart for children and those in need. The “Thursday Night Spaghetti Feeds” were labors of love which fed and supported many families and charities in the community.
Old timers fondly recall, before radio communication was prominent in cop cars, a light on top of Joe’s Tavern neon sign would be turned on, signaling deputies to check in with dispatch.
Local resident Carolyn Trujillo remembers those spaghetti feeds made with Grandma Julia’s recipe. “[I] went to the hospital to visit someone and Mike Ault was headed for the front door wearing nothing but a hospital gown. It was winter and cold. Asked where he was going and he said, ‘Joe’s – it’s Thursday and I’m going to have some spaghetti.’ All I could say was, ‘I understand.’”
Joe’s family of seven with Hazel Moss would grow up in Joe’s Tavern. Christmas Eve family gatherings, weddings and funerals were all celebrated and mourned within those walls. Mandee White, granddaughter of Joe remembers, “Growing up as a granddaughter of Joe Viani there are so many memories! But our Christmas Eve’s definitely have to be my favorite memory. Our whole family gathered every year and did a gift exchange with the kids and as adults we did white elephant. (We couldn’t wait to be grownups to do the white elephant exchange).”
Ricky Montoya, whose mother, Tommy Jo worked at Joe’s Tavern for 37 years fondly said, “Where do I begin? That bar was a part of my life. A huge part. I can remember from the time I was about four years old seeing some of the craziest things a person can witness especially as a young child.” He recalls the rattle of Joe’s office door shutting and the smell of spaghetti dinners and Joe’s prime roast. “From spending $60 in quarters a day playing pool with Mauro [Joe Viani’s son]…I remember Mauro practically running around the table without setting up barely and clearing it one ball at a time.” Joe would chin check Montoya with a lightly closed fist “…while his cigar wold never lose an ash hanging from his lips.”
End of an era
As Joe Viani began to age – the time came to sell off the family business and in 2006 the Holder Group acquired the property located at 545 E Street. Gone were the old mining relics that hung on the wall as well as the photos and memories of the glory days.
The building would get a new coat of paint – inside and out. Viani family members and locals would explain that “it just doesn’t feel the same”. The Viani spirit had left when Joe had handed over the keys.
The Holder Group would have the property for nine years before selling to the Cashell family.
Robert Cashell, son of former Reno Mayor Bob Cashell, purchased Joe’s Tavern (and neighboring Monte Carlo) in the fall of 2015. Patrons began to see a change immediately. The bar and casino was cleaned and glammed up. Slot machines took to the dance floor where many had slow danced before. Cashell Enterprises called Joe’s Tavern & Casino, “a shining tribute to Nevada hospitality.” An American Classic, the company stated, “Joe’s [hospitality] remained near and dear to the local community long after his passing. Then Rob Cashell, a Nevada son himself, came along and restored Joe’s back to the glory days with good old fashioned Nevada hospitality to become the “GO TO” place, once again, in Hawthorne.”
As the plywood was screwed over the windows of Joe’s Tavern, residents began to question “What is next?”
In a town where half of Sierra Way sits vacant – the concern for economy in Mineral County becomes a thing of concern. Neighboring El Capitan underwent a million dollar renovations a few years back, Barley’s Sports Bar comes up with new and innovative ways to keep the night life hopping and Dotty’s Casino (near Safeway) will soon be open – but with one more business closed, what is the economic hit to the county and those that Joe’s Tavern employed?
Paula Viani, daughter of Joe and Hazel explained to the Independent-News that when Joe’s Tavern had been sold, she said her goodbyes. “On behalf of the family, we are sad to see another empty building.” Though she had said her goodbye’s the memories and emotions still sit right under the surface for the Viani family. “It’s finalized,” she laughs when a memory enters her mind. “In the 61 years of the Viani’s owning Joe’s Tavern – there was only one time the bar was ever closed. That was when my grandfather passed away.” Giggling she continues, “The only other time a window was boarded up is when someone was thrown out the window during a Friday night fight.”
The Independent-News reached out to Cashell Enterprises on Monday – there was no response to the telephone call or email.