Towns Vignette: Ernie’s Tin Bar
Story by Katie Watts / Petaluma Towns Correspondent
Photos by Conner Jay / The Press Democrat
The folks at Ernie’s Tin Bar keep a running tally on a blackboard behind the door, counting each customer who walks in and says, “I’ve been driving past this place for years, but this is the first time …” Last month the total was close to 800, but once they stop at the Lakeville Highway landmark, newcomers often become regulars.
The place is owned and operated by Ernie Altenreuther, named for his grandfather, the original Ernie who opened the place in 1923 Now as then, farmers and dairymen come for coffee when the bar opens at 11 a.m. and stay for $2.50 beers until last call at 8 p.m. When the place gets packed, Altenreuther throws open the adjacent auto garage and seats the overflow crowd there.
Ernie’s has always been “a place to get together, where people came in the evening and just talked,” says Ernie’s grandmother Gloria, who at 84 still comes in to work.