This article appeared in the West Sacramento News-Ledger on January 15, 2014.
The Old Sail Inn is Gone — For Now
Writing by Thomas Farley, News-Ledger Correspondent, additional material supplied by News-Ledger Editor Steve Marschke.
Last August, after operating Sail Inn Food and Spirits for 27 years, Joan Washburn lost her lease. The old time bar at 1522 Jefferson Boulevard closed up shop. Washburn founded the West Sacramento landmark with little planning and little idea of what was to come.
In 1986 Washburn’s postmaster, Bill Kristoff, presented Joan with an opportunity to lease a family property on Jefferson. (Kristoff is now the longest-serving member of the West Sacramento City Council.) The property had been a bar before. Joan’s fiancé encouraged her, reasoning that she had to diversify from just dealing in real estate.
As Joan puts it, “Shazam! I’m owner of a bar.”
Almost as surprising to her was the reception she first met. “It was so busy initially when I first got there. It was standing room only. We would cash $20,000 in paychecks on a slow Friday night. After I cashed those I would go to the bank, swap the checks out, and cash another $20,000.”
Less hectic was the steady weekday crowd, often coming in after work.
Many employees from nearby businesses wound up at The Sail after their shifts ended. A steady stream came from workplaces like Tony’s Meat and Cheese, Tecon Pacific (now Clark Pacific), Weyerhaeuser, the Port, the Post Office, and the Rice Growers Association. Joan said this changed later as Southport developed. “You now have the bedroom community crowd versus the after-work crowd.”
But business was always good in the early years and Joan was proud of the Sail. Which she wanted to be known first as a good place to eat, not just a bar.
For many the Sail Inn was their place to go, their Cheers. Dan Cordes remembers. “It was so comfortable for me that I could pass out after closing and sleep on top of the bar. Hanging out with Darren the bartender was great. Just the camaraderie of it all. A place to let go and just relax with friends.”
The Sail even made an impression on those who couldn’t go in. Paul Choate recalls passing by many times as a youth. “I worked at Club Pheasant in 1977 and remember Jefferson Boulevard as a rural road: all but empty except for fields and warehouses. I was too young to stop at the Sail Inn then, but marveled at the boat-on-the-roof.”
After the business closed, Joan left to do scuba diving in Monterey. Joan spent 10 days in the water, diving and relaxing. She says she is ready to move on. What’s next? She owns the vacant property next to the Sail Inn; a nursery might be possible if issues with the city and neighbors were worked out. But she expresses the most interest in writing.
“Writing books,” she says. “That’s always what I thought I’d be doing in this phase of my life — writing books. Right now, though, I am still trying to sit in a room with people and not say ‘What can I get you?’”
Paul Choate sums it up well. “It’s sad that fun places like the Sail Inn are dying out. The Sail Inn was home to generations of local flotsam and jetsam from West Sac. All were welcome, the food was plentiful and cheap, as was the alcohol and entertainment. The closing of this homespun icon marks a change for the new West Sacramento of urban developments and big box malls. Hopefully West Sacramento will make room for more local businesses with flavor and style like the Sail Inn had.”
Choate may yet get some of what he misses.
As the News-Ledger paid a visit on the old building along Jefferson last week, Archie Morse was on the site, getting it ready for a rebirth. Decades of grit had been scoured from the floor, and the kitchen was being readied for expansion and upgrades.
The Sail Inn is being readied for a new life — as a bar and eatery with fish and other pub fare on the menu — by new owners.
Morse said he is the property owner and will be the primary owner of the new iteration of the Sail Inn. He’ll be working with the owners of Sacramento’s Shady Lady, who’ll be handling the day-to-day workings of the Sail Inn.
“A dive bar was what it was,” he said of the former Sail Inn. “What it’s going to be is a clean restaurant and bar. It’s going to be more in the vein of ‘Shady Lady.’ That has a 1920s Prohibition feel to it, and this will be more of a clean fish house.”
He hopes to open “within the next couple of months.”