Joe Rogel and son Barry Rogel have been at the helm of the DeLuxe Bar and Grill for almost 50 years, and they’re throwing a party to celebrate — Thursday. CHS caught up with Joe and Barry as they talked about the history of one of the Hill’s restaurant staples.
DeLuxe 50th Anniversary Celebration
The DeLuxe is getting ready to wrap up the celebration, and the anniversary party is this Thursday at 8 p.m. with live music from local band The Moonspinners from 9-11 p.m. Their eclectic music includes 60s-style pop influences and seems like a good addition to a party celebrating a bar/restaurant that’s been around since 1963.
There will also be giveaways, cake and lots of what the DeLuxe does best – burgers and beer. (And yes, anniversary food specials – like the $1.99 Old School Burger and $3 microbrew pints – are still going through Thursday.)
The DeLuxe has occupied the corner of Broadway E and E Roy Street since the early 1930s, where it operated under the title “DeLuxe Tavern and Steakhouse.” In 1963, Joe Rogel and Bernie Minsk made their first foray into the service business and bought the DeLuxe. Barry, of course, was a young child at the time.
“It was a business that you could buy and if you didn’t like it you could sell easily,” Joe Rogel said.
For the first three decades of its existence, the DeLuxe occupied only about half of its current digs — space that now belongs to the DeLuxe was originally home to a grocery store on one side and a Laundromat in the back by the kitchen.
The DeLuxe was one of the few bars to offer food at that time — a simple menu of hamburgers, steak, pot roast, and French dip sandwiches. Cook Kip O’Gorman came with the joint, and stayed on 14 years after the ownership transfer. Bus ads from the 1970s, which have been hung above the bar as part of the anniversary celebration, celebrated O’Gorman’s work: “Our cook’s work is both rare & well done.”
Barry Rogel said as the years have passed on Capitol Hill, the DeLuxe has changed along with the neighborhood. In the late 1960s while he was growing up, he said, Broadway was dominated by “a lot of neighborhood retail” as Pike/Pine “was more of a warehouse district, more industrial.”
“It was more Blue Collar oriented,” he said. “Starting in the 1970s and early 80s it became restaurant row.”
As the gay community grew its presence on Capitol Hill, the DeLuxe naturally was there to cater to their food and drink needs, including participating in the festivities around the Gay Pride Parade that ran along Broadway past the restaurant.
Barry Rogel shared the story of the ill-fated maiden voyage of the S.S. Minnow. Commissioned in the early 1990s as a flight for the Pride parade, the Minnow was a ship frame mounted on a truck trailer.
As the Minnow approached a turn at the corner outside of the DeLuxe, the crew couldn’t swing wide enough and ended up careening into the Union 76 station.
“The crew loved it, they came in looking like they were shipwrecked and we had a wake for the S.S. Minnow,” Barry Rogel said. “The guy who was the skipper of the boat had the wheelhouse around his neck.”
Barry took over the DeLuxe in 1999, spearheading renovations that almost doubled the restaurant space with the addition of a second room past the bar.
Barry Rogel said the DeLuxe has tried to stay at the forefront of the craft beer and liquor business, growing the number of beers on tap from 6 to 12, then to the current tap count of 20. The DeLuxe was also one of the first restaurants to serve Thomas Kemper root beer on tap.
“We’re always looking to see if we need more because the beer business is exploding and there’s great products,” he said.
Barry Rogel said the DeLuxe has been embracing that beer heritage as part of the ongoing 50th anniversary celebrations, holding weekly tastings and offering select pints for $3.
The celebrations are set to conclude with a 50th birthday party on Thursday complete with cake, live music from The Moon Spinners, and a champagne toast.
Barry Rogel said though the DeLuxe has changed over the years, from a small tavern to a more casual dining space, he and Joe Rogel have tried to maintain a community focus for the place.
“It’s always been just a neighborhood place,” Barry Rogel said. “That’s all the DeLuxe wants to be.”