Rescuing an old roadhouse
The Twin Oaks Tavern in Penngrove is more of a honky-tonk roadhouse than anything else, but that’s what new owner Sheila Groves-Tracey likes about it.
For the past nine months she has been busily transforming the tavern into what she calls “a cowboy juke joint,” a comfortable place to enjoy live music, food, drinks and, thanks to a new outdoor patio, Sonoma County’s pleasant summertime weather.
“It has a great old roadhouse vibe, and so many people tell me how much they love the feel of the room,” she said. “We took down beer signage that didn’t work and a pickle jar that hung from the ceiling for about 10 years, but we kept the look and vibe of the tavern intact. We honed in on the essence of what it is, which is a cowboy bar.”
Honoring the horse that reportedly got loose from a nearby stable and was found many hours later, inside the bar, Groves-Tracey said, “We’re thinking about putting in a hitching post around the side.”
The building was built in 1924 and has been owned by the Bottarini family since 1938, with a bar on the left side and their house and living quarters on the right, where the pool tables and kitchen now stand. When the family started a milk trucking business in the late 1940s, they began to rent the building to other bar owners who operated it as the Twin Oaks. In the 1980s and ‘90s it was filled with country music and line-dancing cowboys.
By the time Groves-Tracey bought it in October 2013, the daytime lunch business remained strong but the evening crowds had become sparse. With her sister and brother-in-law as co-owners, she thought running a bar “sounded really fun” and offered the chance to get away from music business headaches. She now admits, “It’s more work than we thought it would be.”
Renovations included cleaning up the interior while leaving a lot of things the same, she said. “The biggest changes are the outdoor patio area and what we are doing with food.”
An expansive back patio opened this month, with plenty of room for tables, chairs, a small stage and bar. While warm weather lasts, it will be open 5-8 p.m. on weekends, with live music on Saturdays.
Twin Oaks still serves a hearty lunch menu from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday that includes Lynn Hartman’s popular steak sandwiches. Pan fried chicken night has been added on Wednesdays, and Rasta Dwight serves his legendary BBQ and pulled pork Thursday through Sunday.
Groves-Tracey is a longtime talent buyer who has run the Uptown Theatre in Napa and booked acts for the Mystic Theater in Petaluma, the Sausalito Art Festival and the inaugural Bottlerock Festival in Napa. Drawing on that experience, she also has added live music in genres that include country, Americana, blues, classic rock, soul and bluegrass, hosting 20-25 acts a month. Mondays are the only quiet evenings.
“We were looking for a new crowd of people who weren’t coming before,” she said. “The music has made a huge difference, and adding dinner service has helped a great deal. Business has increased by 100 percent at night, and the demograhic is 35-60 years old.”
Old-timers who visit the Twin Oaks will find a new reference to the tavern’s moniker. “We actually aren’t sure which oaks were referred to in the original name,” Groves-Tracey said, “but we did discover two small oaks when we took down the fence to remodel the patio.”
The twins are now an integral part of the tavern’s new backyard.
The Twin Oaks Tavern is located at 5745 Old Redwood Highway. For the menu, music calendars or information about renting the patio area for events, call 795-5118 or visit TwinoaksTavernPenngrove.com.