After nearly six decades, Palo Alto’s beloved sports bar is closing

The Old Pro, one of the most beloved and oldest sports bars on the peninsula, is closing permanently on June 19.

The downtown Palo Alto bar, which opened under a different name in 1964, announced the closure on social media Wednesday night. Owner Steve Sinchek said the big bar was struggling to survive amid various pressures: rising food and labor costs, expensive rent and a pandemic business crisis that didn’t go away. never recovered. The shift to remote working meant local tech companies that regularly hosted parties at the Old Pro lost business, Sinchek said. With the pandemic, large groups don’t come as much anymore.

“We had a hemorrhage of money every month. Nothing on the horizon seemed to change that,” he said.

The lease for the space at 541 Ramona St. wasn’t in effect until 2025, but Sinchek said he negotiated a buyout. Most Old Pro staff will relocate to Sinchek’s neighboring Palo Alto restaurant, Local Union 271.

The peninsula has mourned the loss of several watering hole institutions in recent years, including Antonio’s Nut House in Palo Alto, the Oasis in Menlo Park, and Los Altos waiting for the Boardwalk Bar. A Facebook post announcing the closure of the Old Pro drew dozens of posts from longtime customers lamenting the end of a local era.

For decades, locals and students have flocked to the rowdy bar to watch pro and college sports games, drink from beer towers and ride the famous mechanical bull. It’s one of the few places in Palo Alto that stays open late, until 1 a.m. on weekends — a draw for Stanford University students and homeschoolers on break . Every inch of the bar’s walls is covered in sports paraphernalia and Bay Area TVs. Old Pro often hosted events for local high school sports teams.

It’s usually a busy season for the sports bar, with the NBA Finals and Stanford graduation just around the corner.

The original Old Pro, formerly called Coaches’ Corner, opened in a space near Page Mill Road and El Camino Real. Sinchek, a frequent dive bar patron, bought the business in 1994. He moved it to its current location in 2002, where it has become a downtown staple. In 2006, he remodeled the bar, expanded it into an adjoining space, and added the mechanical bull.

Even before the pandemic, business started to slow down, Sinchek said. The former pro began to see more competition from businesses in nearby booming downtowns like Redwood City and Mountain View.

“Once COVID hit, obviously the wheels fell off and we never really recovered,” he said.

Elena Kadvany is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]: @ekadvany

Richard Dement

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