Not so long ago, the Logger Bar was known as a good place to get in a fight. In its long history, the Blue Lake icon may have at times earned that seedy reputation, but it has since evolved under the stewardship of former owner Kate Martin to reflect the friendly, neighborly character of the town. When I read in June of 2020 that the bar was up for sale, my immediate reaction — like many patrons — was concern. Images of wonderful college nights flooded my memory: dancing to local bands, losing terribly at pool, the turtle races (well-cared for, small-town celebrities that they were). I was so sad to think the business might be sold to someone who didn't get it. "What else could go wrong this year?" I asked myself in a moment of hilarious naivety. But new owner Michael Fields is keeping the feel and the stories of the Logger Bar going.

The Logger Bar has a rich, colorful history. When it was built in 1899, it was one of three bars on the block. Today, it is the only one left standing and has earned the title of oldest continuously serving bar in Humboldt County. First largely patronized by — you guessed it — loggers, it has always celebrated its history, accumulating artifacts like the chainsaws hanging from the ceilings, the circular saw blades embedded in the original wooden floor boards, and the lineup of dented helmets of lumbermen who pulled green chain — the dangerous work of sorting lumber into piles to be graded at the sawmill.

Under Fields' ownership, it all looks and feels the same: The long, wooden bar is lined with customers, the pool table is still donned with red felt and photos of past patrons hang on the walls. Fields credits Yajaira Padilla, who worked with Martin, staying on as bar manager for much of the business' success. The only thing missing is the turtle aquarium — evidently the aforementioned races came to halt after a dramatic turtle-napping. Once returned to their rightful homes, the turtles retired to a local school to live out their days.

On a recent night, Fields himself was bartending. As he slid me my vodka soda, he peered over my head and handed a patron behind me a few quarters, saying, "Here, it's free pool today!" Fields had only taken ownership a few weeks prior, but he is no stranger to bartending or the Logger Bar. And he is an incredible storyteller — one of the most important skills of a good bartender.

Fields moved to Blue Lake from the Bay Area in 1975. During his time in San Francisco, he had worked as a bouncer at a bar and worked his way into bartending, where he gathered some enthralling stories. He ultimately made the move to Blue Lake to study with Dell'Arte International, where he worked for nearly 40 years before retiring from his position as producing artistic director and, no doubt, honed his talents in storytelling. Over those years, he often came to the Logger Bar. "We used to write plays in here," he said.

When Martin purchased the bar in 2012, she kept the memorabilia, but undertook the massive project of cleaning, painting and redecorating what had always been a dive to create a welcoming watering hole. Some 100 local volunteers answered the call to come and help.

"My wife and I were back there pounding nails in the walls to hang all those pictures," patron Jeff DeMark said, pointing at the photos of regulars and pieces of the bar's history.

Those regulars and the spirit of the town make up the bar's personality. Martin has often said each owner is really a steward for the Logger's next iteration.

Fields described the Logger Bar as being "like Blue Lake's living room." It feels that way — reflecting the town with the rugged artifacts of one of Humboldt County's oldest industries, the Beatles playing in the background and the large disco ball among the massive chainsaws hanging from the ceiling. And because of the enthusiastic and welcoming patrons bellied up to the bar.

Fields said the customers he had met at the bar were a mix of "great locals who come a lot and a lot of people who have never been in this bar before. I want everyone to feel welcome no matter where you're from." The events he has in mind should do just that.

The grand re-opening on St. Patrick's Day was a joyous combination of drinks, food and entertainment with a line out the door. He plans to have a similar jamboree for Mothers' Day, free pool on Saturdays, live music and the return of Sunday potlucks sprinkled in so that there is always something going on at the Logger Bar.

"You'll hear a lot of stories in the bar," Fields said. And a couple hours with him and the patrons on the barstools next to me proved him right. The Logger Bar has led many lives throughout its long history and it's come a long way from its past as a place to find a fight. And now it's ready for a new round of stories.

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Erin Young

Erin Young

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