The Ohio Club is considered to be the oldest continually operating bar in Arkansas. It has a storied and somewhat checkered history.
You are probably aware that the town of Hot Springs has been a tourist destination for hundreds of years because of its healing thermal waters. What you might not know is that Hot Springs was also one of the first spring training locations south of the Mason-Dixon Line for major league teams.
And…it was also a hotbed of illegal activities and a favorite hangout of gangsters.
All of this made for a dangerous, yet fascinating melange of characters and activities in Hot Springs which is also known as The Spa City.
History of The Ohio Club in Hot Springs, Arkansas
The Ohio Club was started in 1905 by John “Coffee” Williams and his nephew, Sam Watt. It actually began as a legal bar and casino. However, in 1913 anti-gambling laws were passed.
Do you think that this stopped gambling at The Ohio Club?
No, it did not. The Ohio Club kept on going as before…it was now an illegal gambling spot.
In fact, The Ohio Club has never closed its doors despite bans on both gambling and alcohol.
After alcohol was prohibited the club turned into a true speakeasy. The name was changed to the Ohio Cigar Store and the front entrance/store was redesigned to be only about 10′ feet deep with doors at the back that led to the bar and casino.
Gambling and drinking continued on at the Ohio Club and it was frequented by many patrons who were both famous and often…notorious.
Singer Al Jolson performed at the Ohio Club in 1915, baseball legend Babe Ruth frequented the place and President Theodore Roosevelt was said to have stopped by on occasion.
Then there were the gangsters. The club has been visited by the likes of Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Bugs Moran, and Bugsy Segel.
The Ohio Club was raided many times through the years, sometimes for real, but often just for show. It managed to survive and was never completely shut down.
The Ohio Club Today
Today the Ohio Club is a bar, restaurant, and music venue as well as a piece of Arkansas history.
The atmosphere is amazing!
The exterior has actually not changed much through the years although they have added a life sized statue of Al Capone that sits on a bench just outside the entrance.
The interior is known for its massive hand carved mahogany bar which was purchased by the original owners. It is gorgeous and definitely something to see.
The building has seating downstairs at and around the bar as well as tables upstairs. There is a lot of dark wood and old fixtures which add to feeling of history that you get as soon as you walk inside.
You will also find plenty of gambling and gangster-related memorabilia including tables made from old gambling equipment such as roulette wheels.
Food and Drinks
The cocktails are excellent at the Ohio Club. You will find just about any type of liquor that you might want at the huge bar.
Bourbon is a favorite but they have a little of everything including some delicious specialty cocktails.
The food is simple but very high quality and very hearty. Portions are large so come hungry!
They have a great choice of appetizers. Emily and I visited recently and on the recommendation of our server we tried the fried green beans. They were SO good and…fried green beans count as a vegetable, right?
The Ohio Club is famous for their Reuben Sandwiches and believe me, the hype is not just hype. This was a delicious sandwich. If you enjoy a Reuben this is one you have to try.
You can also choose from a variety of burgers from a classic burger to the Hawaiian burger to the Mushroom and Swiss burger and many more.
I recommend the Holy Guacamole Burger which is open-faced and eaten with a fork.
Don’t worry, the Ohio Club also has some salads on the menu which also looked delicious.
Customer service was excellent. Our server was both friendly and helpful when making food and drink selections. She was also very knowledgable about the history of the club.
Entertainment at the Ohio Club
There is music several nights a week at the Ohio Club. Be sure and check the website to find out the days and times.
Do note that those under 21 are only allowed in the club and restaurant before 5:00.
Not only is the Ohio Club a delicious restaurant with amazing drinks and entertainment, it is also a piece of Arkansas history. You will definitely want to stop here if you are in Hot Springs.
Want to try some more delicious restaurants in Hot Springs? Here is a post with some more of our favorites.
And in this post you can learn about some of the more interesting foods in Arkansas!
For more information about Hot Springs you can check out the following posts:
All about the Hot Springs National Park
Thanks so much for stopping by!