THE FINAL FOUR YEARS OF TONY’S TAVERN Reflections on a town in transition by Don Bachman
Don Bachman behind his bar.
It probably was after dark, and surely under a cloak of secrecy that several men came into
Tony’s Tavern four decades ago, and began to laboriously slide the mahogany back bar out away
from the west wall. The serving glasses, beef jerky and other stuff that rested in front of the
large rectangular mirror flanked by two smaller arch-topped mirrors, were stripped out and the
towering bar moved a couple of feet into the service aisle behind 8 stool front bar with its
dishwashing sinks, and beer tap.
The beer joint hosted many an old timer who would stare into those mirrors and to talk
directly to the person left or right, without turning his head. At the street end of the aisle, was
the curved glass display counter filled candy bars, licorice sticks, gum and crackers. The
cigarettes, cigars and snoose for the addicted, were in a case next to the Hamilton Safe, firmly
rooted under the front window casing with wavy glass panes.
The space behind the back bar was a dusty long cavern with its floor covered in coins
now being scooped up and put into a cloth bag held by Tony Kapushion. The bag grew heavier
as the pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, half dollars and silver dollars from the previous 40 years
of customer gratuities winged against the west wall above the bar. The bar was then slid back in
place and after (I’m sure) a celebratory few glasses of 3.2% beer, the crew crept back along Elk
Avenue to their homes in this town of maybe 300 people a few miles down the road from a
fledgling ski area of the same name: Crested Butte.
A few days later in that summer of 1964 the back bar once again was moved out, this
time by several much younger men, none of which had been in town more than a year or so;
rounded up for the task by the new tenant of Tony’s Tavern. He had just signed a lease with
Kapushion and was seeking to find the initial secret reward behind the bar, and confirm the
rumor he’d heard. That long, dark space was empty and swept clean. The story doesn’t say if
there was a note on the floor.