Off the Water

Off the Water

TroutHunter purchases fabled A-Bar; social hub could be open this summer.

  • By: Jim Dean
A-Bar Ranch

Fly fishermen were shocked and saddened when eastern Idaho’s fabled A-Bar closed in 2008 [see “Last Call,” March 2010 Fly Rod & Reel] but the good news is this: The A-Bar, legendary among parched trout fishermen, road-weary travelers and rambunctious locals, was purchased by TroutHunter, its next-door neighbor, and is being refurbished with plans to reopen this summer.

“Our goal is to fix the roof, do some painting and repairs and reopen on July 4, 2011, or as soon after that as possible,” says Rich Paini, one of the A-Bar’s new co-owners. Other partners include Paini’s wife, Millie, Jon Stiehl, Allen Ball and renowned fly tier René Harrop.

“All of us who hung out at the A-Bar miss it, and we’re going to do our best to bring it back with its traditions intact,” says Paini. “Having the A-Bar next door [to TroutHunter] will also give us a chance to offer visiting anglers and others an alternative price-point and atmosphere.

“The A-Bar will again serve Texas burgers, chili dogs, hand-cut fries and other old favorites,” Paini added. “We plan on expanding the A-Bar’s stage and bringing in frequent live music. As before, there will be a jukebox, a pool table, foosball and shuffleboard. We have even tossed around the idea of adding a mechanical bull. We’ll be working on the upstairs this winter, and will have motel rooms with fresh shag carpet available by the 2012 fishing season.”

Brad Trask will be the A-Bar’s main bartender, and he’ll be assisted by other familiar TroutHunter mixologists and servers. There will be a horseshoe-shaped bar spangled with silver dollars, but not the same one that was in the old place. Korre Thompson and LoAnne Strandberg, whose parents, Larry and Helen Thompson, opened the original A-Bar and Supper Club in 1980 (it had formerly been the Riverside Lounge and later the Circle E) kept that original bar for understandably sentimental reasons.

“We plan to recreate the horseshoe bar as nearly like the original as possible,” Paini said, “and we’re asking customers to bring a silver dollar when they visit, or send us one. We’ll imbed the coins in the bar top with the name of each benefactor, just as before. We’re also inviting customers to contribute old photos and memorabilia for the walls, and we’re open to any and all ideas that don’t involve karaoke.

“We’re even going to keep the A-Bar’s old slogan, ‘Where the Hell was I Last Night?’” Paini concluded.

If the work gets done, visiting the A-Bar this summer could seem like old times again, with the neon-lit parking lot filled with fishermen and guides, and vehicles trailing drift boats, and the bar and dance floor swarming with happy souls. That path between TroutHunter and the A-Bar is likely to become more well worn than ever.