Step into the Woody Creek Tavern for the first time and it is difficult to figure whether you have stepped back in time, or forward in time, or maybe you suddenly slipped sideways in time. The uninitiated will stare in astonishment at the bizarre collection of “stuff” that dominates the Tavern.
The walls are plastered with hundreds upon hundreds of photos, (if you want to join in, ask your server to take your picture and we promise to get you “plastered” so you can find yourself the next time you come in) stapled over other photos and there are magazine covers, newspaper clippings, children’s drawings, license plates, pieces of original art, memorials to old friends who are no longer with us and just about anything else you can imagine.
A single word doesn’t do justification…it is bizarre, strange, peculiar, odd, curious, funny, outlandish, abnormal, eccentric, unorthodox, queer, extraordinary, weird, wacky, kooky and maybe even freaky. One thing is clear, the Tavern is not conventional nor is it the result of a well thought out and precise design. There is a wonderful irony wrapped around the Tavern. When it opened in 1980 it was intended to be a gathering place for locals, for the residents of Wood Creek and it’s neighbors. It was to be an unpretentious place located in what once has been a combination tiny grocery store, post office and gas station. A few miles to the east, Aspen in the 1980’s was eagerly going in one direction, the Tavern was content to be down-home and casually comfortable.
The Tavern was busy being the Tavern, it does stand out amid all the glitz that surrounds it, and that was one of the reasons its achieved international fame. There were never any interior decorators lurking around and designing cute themes, if anything, it is a collective attitude shared by the owners and staff. The Tavern has had it’s share of celebrities and movie stars who are regulars, however, if you were to ask, “Do any celebrities ever come in,” the response probably would be, “as far as we are concerned, you are a celebrity to us!” If you stripped away a few photos, you would find an old sign on the wall that stated, “It’s not who you are that is important, it’s how you conduct yourself.” An all inclusive attitude existed – it didn’t matter who you were or what you did, the Tavern wanted you to come in and enjoy yourself.
As much as anything that explains the Tavern’s messy decor. It began in 1982 when the owners wanted to spruce the place up a tad by adding new wallpaper to the walls. A few photos decorated the walls in the bar area and the owners were convinced to not dump them but to move them to the rear of the building near the restrooms. The seeds had been planted. The photo montage grew slowly at first and then like a horde of locusts, the Tavern walls fell victim to endless photos and clippings.
No, the Tavern is not the result of someone’s clever idea, just about everyone who ever worked there or drank and ate in the place managed to contribute to the ambiance, it that is what it can be called.
~By Gaylord Guenin