HOUSTON – A piece of Houston history is coming to an end. The State Bar of Texas in the historic Rice Hotel is about to close its doors forever.
Grab a drink at the State Bar of Texas while you can. One of the most storied watering holes in the city is about to close its doors.
“Back when the Rice Hotel was an actual hotel, this was the old Capitol Club, which was a private members club. And some of Houston’s biggest movers and shakers – from politicians to businessmen to lawyers to doctors were members here,” Ryan Stone, a bartender, said.
The old membership cards hanging on the walls bear the names of judges, a mayor and a governor.
“Ben Taub is on there. He was a member of the old Capitol Club.”
And on the night before he was assassinated, shortly after a speech in the Rice Hotel, President John F. Kennedy dropped in for a drink at the Capitol Club.
“It’s all artifacts we got from the Rice and the old Capitol Club.”
Max McElory tells a great story about how he acquired all these artifacts. The Rice Hotel was closed for two decades and McElroy bluffed his way into the empty building by pretending he wanted to buy it.
What he found in the shuttered Capitol Club was a time capsule.
“Percy Foreman’s phone was still sitting there where he used to drink every day,” he said. “There were cigarette butts in ash trays, drinks on the tables -- could’ve opened there and then.”
Instead, he bought the furniture and a treasure trove of historic stuff that he stored in a warehouse. Years later, he ended up opening his own bar here and moving some of the furniture and other old stuff back into the refurbished building.
This piece of property in downtown Houston was actually historic long before the Rice Hotel stood here. This was the site of the original Capitol of the state of Texas.
Now the Rice Hotel has been sold to new owners and the State Bar is closing. McElroy is taking the historic furnishings with him.
Maybe, he says, they’ll end up in another bar. Maybe they’ll end up in a museum.
“It’s just got a lot of history,” he said.
“Well, at least you got to come in and have one last drink, right?” he added.