Originally opening in 1964, The Old Pro has long served as Palo Alto's classic sports bar, even as Silicon Valley sprung up around it. The walls are covered by vintage pennants showcasing now-defunct teams like the World Football League's Philadelphia Bell and framed Sports Illustrated covers from an era when printing color photography required weeks of planning.
Later on, the bar also attracted crowds for late-night staples including its mechanical bull Bucky, beer towers and shotskis. Open until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, The Old Pro has been one of the sleepy Midpeninsula's few spots for a late-night drink. On June 1, the business announced its permanent closure after its last day on June 19.
The (old) Old Pro opened under another name on El Camino Real near Page Mill Road and Oregon Expressway nearly 60 years ago, and Steve Sinchek purchased the business in 1994. He opened the second location of The Old Pro in downtown Palo Alto about a decade later, and the El Camino bar was shuttered in 2007 with one last blowout where its televisions were sold to patrons for $20.
The Old Pro's current spot meant relocating its dive bar environment to the trendier location of downtown Palo Alto in a space with floor-to-ceiling windows. Still, The Old Pro retained its classic sports memorabilia decor and continued hosting everyone from Little Leaguers to college students and venture capitalists. During major sporting events, the bar would come alive and transform into a space packed with hordes of fans decked out in the red, white and blue of U.S. soccer and the red and gold of the 49ers.
Sinchek pointed to the pandemic keeping work groups away and rising food, rent and labor costs as the main factors in the bar's closure in interviews with The Mercury News and the San Francisco Chronicle though he still operates the nearby Local Union 271. A statement on social media thanks community members and asks customers to share pictures and stories.
Hundreds of commenters have responded and started leaving memories. One patron recounted meeting her husband at the bar, and others pleaded for someone to come in and save the local institution. One follower joked and asked if she could get her fake ID back that was confiscated over a decade ago.
Palo Alto's other beloved longtime dive bar, Antonio's Nut House, closed in August 2020 after 50 years in business. The property owner recently submitted a new plan for reinventing the space. British Pub The Rose & Crown, which opened in 1990 (though the building had a long history as a local tavern), still serves drinks on Emerson Street.
If the series goes seven games, fans will be able to watch the last game of the NBA Finals at The Old Pro on its last day, Father's Day, on June 19.
This story was first published on the Peninsula Foodist blog. It will be updated as more information becomes available.
Anthony Shu writes for TheSixFifty.com, a sister publication of Palo Alto Online, covering what to eat, see and do in Silicon Valley.