Whether you are looking for a sports bar, a cocktail lounge, a place for a cold beer, a glass of unique wine, somewhere to enjoy live entertainment or to just chill out with friends, The 219 Lounge on First Avenue in Sandpoint has it all. The 219 has undergone extensive restoration over the last three years and reveals a unique part of Sandpoint’s history. Not only that, it is now smoke free and was recently named the best small-town bar in Idaho.
“The character of the bar has changed multiple times over its 84-year history,” says Mel Dick, who along with his wife Claudia own the “Niner,” as it has come to be known over the years. “In the early 1950s it was a Las Vegas-style lounge complete with one-arm bandit gaming machines.”
The original bar was located on Pine Street in Sandpoint and was moved to its current location in 1934 and was called the Diamond, with the original diamond logo still visible on the Lounge’s façade. But a fire destroyed the building, and it was rebuilt in late 1934 and early 1935 with the front and back exterior walls constructed in solid concrete with an art-deco style.
The beams in the newly exposed ceiling show signs of the fire from over 80 years ago. One of the treasures that was discovered in the restoration was a 40-foot mural painted by “Cowboy Joe” in 1935 that was hidden under multiple walls. It has since been restored by local artist Diana Schuppel. Other smaller murals near the entrance were also uncovered. Those were painted by locally renowned artist Gene Hayes in 1967.
One of the additions includes a one-of-a-kind back bar, weighing more than 2,000 pounds when fully stocked, designed and constructed by Jim Reese of Kokanee Ironworks. “There is nothing like this anywhere,” says Mel. “It includes a custom-built system for the hinged wire-mesh doors which lock the liquor in the cabinets.”
So how did it become the 219? When the previous owners applied for a liquor license, they put the address in the space where the business name was to be written, and the license was issued to the now iconic 219.
With large windows in front (discovered when the front façade was removed during the renovation) and a beautiful outdoor patio in the back adorned with murals of Sandpoint—Lake Pend Oreille and Schweitzer Mountain painted by local artists Maria Larson and Nannette Cooper—The 219 has become a melting pot of locals and tourists coming to see what’s new (or old) in this historic building.
As with any successful business, The 219 has changed with the times. Twelve years ago, the only beer on tap was Pabst Blue Ribbon; now The 219 features the most craft beer handles in Sandpoint with 20 beer taps inside and six taps on its outside patio bar. The 219 offers a list of classic cocktails including Manhattans, cosmopolitans, dirty martinis, a small but unique wine list and an extensive menu of the increasingly popular Moscow mule.
During the summer months, the outside patio is a favorite of many. There you can find food trucks providing something for everyone each Friday and Saturday evening. There is also live music every Friday and Saturday nights featuring local and regional musicians and bands. Several times a year, nationally known comedians perform as they love the intimate “comedy club” atmosphere of the main bar with its brick walls and exposed large ceiling beams.
“We love local musicians and also have bands from around the Pacific Northwest,” says Mel. “It’s everything from rock ‘n’ roll, Americana, the blues and more.”
Whether you are a local looking for a fun and smoke-free place to meet up with friends or a visitor coming to check out Sandpoint for the first time, stop by The 219 Lounge on North First Avenue. Be sure and ask for Mel; if he’s around he would love to show you the historic nature of this Sandpoint icon.
The 219 Lounge
219 N. First Ave.