The Ohio Club in Hot Springs, Arkansas is the oldest continually operating bar in the state. It also 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.
Did you know that the town was also a popular hangout for gangsters? And that it was one of the first spring training locations south of the Mason-Dixon Line for major league teams.
All of this made for a dangerous, yet fascinating melange of characters and activities in Hot Springs and The Ohio Club was right in the thick of all the intrigue.
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 this establishment?
No, it did not.
They 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 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 and the place was frequented by many patrons who were both famous and often…notorious.
Singer Al Jolson performed here in 1915, baseball legend Babe Ruth frequented the place and even 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 shut down.
The Restaurant 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 near 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.
For More Information About Hot Springs
Here we have more information about the Spa City with all the information you need to plan an excellent vacation or weekend away. We also have a list of some of our other favorite restaurants in town! You can also learn more about the Hot Springs National Park here.
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. Which of course Emily and I had to try on our recent visit!
You might also be interested in:
More places to have a drink when you are visiting the town of Hot Springs.
I would describe the food here as elevated bar food. It’s not fancy, 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, there are also some salads on the menu!
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 restaurant.
The Ohio Club is located right on the main drag of Hot Springs across from the famous bathhouse row and the national park.
Their address is: 336 Central Ave, Hot Springs, Arkansas 71901
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 this 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.
The Ohio Club is one of the most iconic and famous restaurants in Arkansas. If you are going to be traveling the state and want to learn about more famous restaurants in the state we have a post for that!
Or you can also learn about some of the more interesting foods in Arkansas!
Thanks so much for stopping by!