RIP: The Wilshire Club

So far, the OKC bar and restaurant scene hasn’t fallen seen a high volume of permanent closings as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, but there have been some victims.

A few weeks back, The Wilshire Club – a small, venerable, 62-year-old dive bar tucked away in a downtrodden building near Wilshire and May – quietly closed its doors. Not to be confused with the Wilshire Gun Range, a camo-clad mashup between a shooting range and a bar & grill, it was one of the most authentic old school dive bars in Oklahoma City.

Here’s the official announcement from something called The Wilshire Club After Dark:

The Wilshire Club was like stepping into a time capsule. The exterior was unassuming, and you had to enter through the rear. Thick smoke fogged the small room that was wood paneled like your grandfather’s basement. The bulk of the space was taken up by clunky pool tables. There wasn’t a lot of seating, but it didn’t matter because it would usually just be me and a few friends, and the old guys sitting at the end of the bar sipping whiskey from their rocks glasses. The only modern embellishment was one of those internet jukeboxes, but the music was usually classic rock. And, if my memory serves correct, it was cash only.

Here are a couple of photos of the place we found on Yelp!:

The Wilshire Club opened in 1958 and made it to 2020, which is an achievement for any small local business, but their closing signals something darker. There are few authentic dives bars left on the northside, and we won’t be seeing new ones open up anytime soon. There are a few ‘high-dives’ that try to replicate the feel, but it’s not the same as visiting a dark, worn-in room that reeks of 60 years of smoke and spilled beer and bathrooms that are ignored by old jaded bartenders.

Losing places like the Wilshire or the original Red Rooster means a loss of community. There’s something about dive bars that brings different people together when the drinks are cheap and the talk is loose, chainsmoking while sitting across the bar from each other, arguing about trivia, nursing a warm Coors Banquet.

Most of the establishments who make it out of the pandemic will be ones with big money investors and more financial backing than just mom & pop. Even for the places that are reopening, it’s likely that there will be another wave of sickness and everything will just have to lockdown again because people refuse to take this seriously. Most dive bars just won’t be able to take that hit, and they’ll drop like flies and be replaced with Taco Bell Cantinas or bullshit like that.

What’s the first local dive you are going to visit when it’s safe to get out again!