Caspar Inn on a Beautiful Coastal Day
After many many decades in business, the current owner, Bobby Miller has announced that before the months end that the famous Caspar Inn ( An Icon on the Mendocino coast) will be closing there doors. It is a very sad day for local and visiting guests alike. The Caspar Inn has been continuously run as a Roadhouse and bar since 1906, when Caspar was a booming logging town, with a population of around 800.
The Caspar Inn has been providing the coastal community with live music and dancing since the 1970′s when Peter Lit had a dream and wanted to start a nightclub on the coast. This roadhouse known as the Caspar Inn has delivered everything an old roadhouse /nightclub should deliver, like great music and great acts, offering rock n roll, reggae, rhythm & blues, ska, zydeco, electronic, dubstep, trip hop, dixieland, funk, afrofunk, bluegrass, DJ nights, open mic and a lot lot more.
The Caspar Inn has always had a great selection of drinks, wine and beer, a fun staff and bartenders, and of course better than average food from the earliest days with the Blues Cafe to the current restaurant which offers vegetables that are organic and locally produced. All chicken is free-range and all beef is grass-fed and locally raised.
The Caspar Inn has 10 non-smoking double rooms and two shared bathrooms above the bar and cafe. They advertised: rooms are above the club , music can be heard in the room and the noise may not quiet down until well after 2:00 am. They have no TV or telephones in the rooms, but do offer free Wi-Fi. Rooms were between $45 – $100.
I wanted to share some earlier memoirs from Brian Crasno and Missy Bason:
My personal history with Caspar only goes back to 1977, but if you speak with Red-Headed Margaret Danner, (I think she lives at Billy Watson’s place) she would have more info than I. I was once told the original building was built in 1906. There used to be a reunion held each summer for the old Caspar families. Don’t know if it still goes on, but you could check it out.
When I went to work for Richard Mabbet (not sure how to spell his name) the room was just a funky down-home saloon. The bartenders at that time were myself, Chuck Hathaway, Turkey Bob Smith, Bob Clark, Richard, and a female whose name I cannot remember. Red-Headed Margaret also tended bar there for years and years. There was music on only two nights a month, on Tuesdays. The bands had to be local only. Margie Crowningshield (David’s wife), One Night Stand, Pennebaker Band (I think), of course Dirty Leggs if they were in town, and various incarnations of “Cat Mother” played the room. There was no door charge, but the well drinks went from $.80 a shot to $1.00! Jack Daniel’s from $1 to $1.25. There were many times musicians would just come in and play. Someone would bring a guitar, someone else an electric keyboard, and so on. This would usually happen by the front door, on Friday nights.
By the way, the two benches out front (if they’re still there) were built by Trey Loy III. Notice there is not a nail or screw in the benches. Now and then Trey would get drunk and restain the benches with a combination of various liqours–Kahlua, Ameretto, etc. Unfortunately, the last time I saw the benches, someone had painted them bright blue.
The Deli next store was run by John Griffin, and was called “Juanito en Cajon,” Spanish for Jack-in-the Box. The man who owned the Mendocino Hotel at that time was R.O. Peterson, one of the founders of Jack-in-the-Box, hence the name.
Richard Mabbet had retired from 20 years as a purchasing agent for Sears and Roebuck, and was from Chicago. He did the complete drop-out thing, and I believe the name of his Corp. was “The Caspar Moonshine Co.” He bought the place from Shirley for $80,000, and then sold it to Lit. Peter made many changes to the room, and is the one who brought in music seven nights a week. When Richard still had the place, folks would come in for coffee (I think we opened at 11 a.m. then) and instead of talking sports, they would talk music. Music was the world that ruled Caspar in those days, and musicians were treated with a certain tolerance, i.g., if they had nothing to eat, you would feed them.
One more thing, there is a wood patch to the left of the front door. That’s from a bullet hole. If you check the lower railing on the porch, you will see the groove from the bullet. But I’ll tell you that story another time, or ask Margie Crowningshield. Before this becomes a book, I’d better go. I’ll email you the next time I feel nostalgic.
Lit always wanted to think of the room as a “Night Club” and I would argue it was a “Roadhouse.” A piece of Americana that should be preserved. Glad you folks feel the same way.
I realize you probably can’t use most of this, but thought you might find it interesting.
Take care, and hope to see you this Summer.
My history of the Caspar Inn doesn’t go back as far as Brian’s and some of the others….but my connection to the whole area goes way back. I began coming out to beautiful Northern California in the late Eighties . My tie there was Devon Lacey , wife of Mighty T-Bones’ multi-talented Johnny Bush. Devon, being an important part of my extended family, invited me out to help her with her wedding to Johnny. During the reception part of the ceremony I met and fell in love with Declan Phelan, the door man at the Caspar Inn for Peter Lit for years. Many good times were had at the Caspar in the weeks that followed our meeting until it was time for Declan to move on to a new life on the island of Maui. But that is another story…Now we are married and live in Texas. We look forward to our frequent treks there for visits and fun. We always go back to the Caspar at least once during our visits . Even though it has changed and Peter and Declan are no longer part of the visable”color” there, there’s enough of their essence left that it still feels familiar…..I don’t know the new owners as yet, but congratulations for your successful first year and keeping enough of the originality of the place that it still has the magic for me…..Missy Bason –Athens Texas
Also I wanted to share some reviews from TripAdvisor:
“Good tunes, good food, good vibes”
Been to the Caspar Inn many times for world class music acts. It is a true traditional roadhouse, with a bar and music venue downstairs and rooms to rent upstairs. What surprised me was the great food! I’m a vegetarian and I really had a good meal there while listening to a great band! ‘Nuff said! Reviewed April 19, 2012
“Great venue for live music, drinks, food”
I have never been let down when I have chosen Caspar Inn for entertainment. Small venue with live bands, great bartenders, and now they’ve added food that is way better than your average pup fare. NYE was fantastic this year as it was last year. Big fun party with locals as well as visitors from out of town who came up for the band (Fishbone). Reviewed January 5, 2012
“Casper Inn Rocks”
Great bar set in a historic building. Be sure you go when they have live music. This place rocks. Reviewed November 20, 2011
“a sweet old rock n roll tavern”
I really liked this place – set in an old house/hotel – great ambience and live music on occassion. Pretty mild mannered but love the edgy cool decor- you want to go! Reviewed November 15, 2011
So as a final note from me, I would like to mention as one of my many duties here at Stevenswood, at my concierge’s desk when the guests would check in and wanted to know what there is to see and do in the area, I would always have listed on my Events for the week of ? and on the bottom was about the Caspar Inn and who and what was playing. I have been doing this since the Peter Lit days to the current owner with Bobby Miller (former bartender of Pattersons Pub in Mendocino) who has owned the Caspar Inn for just under a decade and kept the same flair that we all enjoyed about the Caspar Inn.
FAREWELL TO THE BELOVED CASPAR INN.