No Prohibition in Los Gatos: Bars in Los Gatos

March 28, 2007

Carrie Nation is probably turning over in her grave.

A strong advocate for the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement, Carrie Nation was opposed to alcohol in a very big way. History has it that she attacked dozens of bars together with a band of praying & singing women and eventually wielded a a hatchet to make her point. In fact, in later years this seems to have become her “niche market” as her newletter was called “The Hatchet”. Though jailed some 30 times, she paid her fines with lecture fees and  (believe it or not) the sales of small souvenier hatchets. 

I suppose it is true that “actions speak louder than words”.  But it’s also true that irony is one of the funniest forms of humor.

And so it is quite humorous indeed to most folks in Los Gatos that the town’s most popular bar (and there’s no shortage of them)  is named none other than “Carrie Nation’s”.  In case you don’t know this colorful bit of history, the beveled glass in the main door portrays an ax.  (If nothing else, it’s a conversation starter!)   Located at 8 North Santa Cruz Avenue (close to Main Street), Carrie Nation’s is a fun place to stop in for a drink if you have a sense of humor and enjoy the old “fern bar” atmosphere.

Of course, I’m not saying that the folks who run the bar have a sense of humor themselves. Once, when my kids were small, we’d seen the Holiday Parade on a cold December morning and one of small our kids desperately needed to use a restroom. My office was too far down the street for practical purposes (that is, when the child says “I need to go” he or she usually means NOW). We went in the back door of Carrie Nation’s, and zoomed down the stairs like folks on an urgent mission to the restrooms. There was no walking through the bar area or anything like that. When we emerged, two minutes later, there was a scowling employee waiting for us and quite ready to escort us out.  You’d have thought we had pick pocketed our way down the stairs.

All I could think of was that the dour disposition of the gal for whom the bar was named had somehow been imparted on a unsympathetic employee.  (That was a lot of years ago, and I imagine that person has since had children of his own and perhaps has learned to think about the urgency of a young person’s need for a restroom.)

I have never been back since! But even so, I love that front door. It tickles me every time I see it.

There are many fine bars in Los Gatos. I was intent upon writing about them here until I found an excellent article in the San Jose Mercury News which did a beautiful job reviewing them. Depending on your mood and the circumstances, you may prefer Viva (at Los Gatos Blvd and Blossom Hill), Mountain Charlie’s, The Black Watch, or Johnny’s, or Double D’s or any of the great sites in town from Steamer’s or The Wine Cellar or who knows what. Read the article.  If you have kids in tow, I do suggest Double D’s  (at Highway 9 and North Santa Cruz Avenue) or Johnny’s Northside Grill (532 N Santa Cruz Ave)Both are most welcoming!

But whether you frequent bars or not, next time you are in downtown Los Gatos, take a gander at 8 North Santa Cruz and enjoy a chuckle at the image of the hatchet on the door there.  Imagine what Carrie would have to say!

Blog entry by Mary Pope-Handy,
Los Gatos Enthusiast,

Do not use without permission, please.