Raise your hand if, at any point in your drinking career, you have sat at the bar of La Carafe, set your wineglass down and, in a knowledgeable tone, said, “You know, this is the oldest bar in Houston.” You would not be alone, and you would not blamed. That bar just screams, “I’m ancient.” But its reputation isn’t founded, according to James Glassman’s Amnesia Houston, an organization started to preserve our city’s history. La Carafe is old, yes, but it’s not the city’s oldest.
Who earns the distinction, according to Amnesia’s criteria (the group considered bars that have operated in the same name and the same building and location)? Why, none other than Leon’s Lounge. We’ve all hung out with the vagrants at Leon’s, singing at the piano or playing pool surrounded by taxidermed animals (although those, sadly, have been removed). Little did we know we were sitting in the city’s most ancient bar, started in 1949, ten years before La Carafe.
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Other historical bars listed by Amnesia include Kay’s Lounge, The Marquis II and the West Alabama Icehouse. We can get behind all those bars except for the nasty Marquis, which, of course, attracts a loyal herd of vomiting frat boys. – Cathy Matusow