In a mountain tourist town where years are counted in winters, it’s been a rough one. Inside a South Lake Tahoe working-class neighborhood bar, the midweek patrons savor tranquility instead of the tumult outside. Afternoon light shines through windows and nearly every barstool is filled. The mood is relaxed.
The owner of Whiskey Dick’s Saloon emerges from the tiny back office room and punches up some old country songs, including Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” on the jukebox. It may seem like any other day, but it’s not. Tomorrow, after 12 years, Jan “Goo” Conroy is selling the place, handing over the keys to the longtime chief bartender, Adrian Mills, and partner, Mei Wormkessel, who will handle the bookkeeping.
Conroy’s late husband was called “Pappy.” Jan was “Granny Goose,” but her infant grandson Ryan called her “Goo Goo,” or “Goo” for short, and that’s been her nickname ever since.
“Goo has always been in the back,” Mills said. “There is a certain thing about her. Everybody loves her but she can crack the whip when she wants to. She’s an amazingly awesome person to work for.”
Goo moved to South Lake Tahoe from Southern California to be near her daughter, arriving in her motorhome at 11:30 p.m. June 30, 2005. It was important that she didn’t arrive after midnight.
“I retired, sold my house and moved to Tahoe all in the same day,” she said.
Goo is good with numbers. She was able to make Whiskey Dick’s, a former art frame store, into a successful business. It’s located on Highway 50 – Lake Tahoe Boulevard – in midtown South Lake Tahoe, just a five-minute drive to the visitor destination at Stateline, the Casino Corridor.
How did she succeed?
“Music has something to do with it,” she said. “We have free live music on Saturday nights.”
Music attracted Mills to Whiskey Dick’s. He began playing bass at the venue 11 years ago with Ninja Slaughterhouse. The punk rock band’s most famous song went, “Go to Tahoe on vacation, leave on probation.”
“This has been my favorite bar my whole life and now I have a chance to make it ours,” Mills said. “We are going to keep this Whiskey Dick’s tradition going. You won’t catch me in a 9 to 5.”
Mills was raised in Amador County, attended American River College and came to South Lake Tahoe to enter the fire academy. But he learned work as an EMT was not a lifestyle he wanted. Instead of treating bloody patients, he pours bloody Marys.
“This is my 15th winter at Tahoe,” he said. “We are going to put some love into the bar, paint the interior in an industrial metal style, remodel the bathrooms and go really hard on the music scene. I have 11 shows booked for the first month. There will be a little something for everyone: hip-hop, metal, punk rock, reggae.”
He said a large banner promoting Tuesday drink specials will remain. It has the proprietor’s image on a $2 bill. In Goo we trust.
What’s next for Goo?
“I will sit on a couch for a while and I’m not going to get up,” she said. “I will sleep for as long as I can. I might cook. I have an old recipe book.
“Maybe because I am retired and I can sleep in, I’ll come here and see some music. Do you like The Cash Only Band?”
— Tim Parsons
- Whiskey Dick’s Saloon
2660 Lake Tahoe Boulevard, South Lake Tahoe
Saturday, March 2: Are You MADD Yet Tour (hip-hop)
Friday, March 8: Andre Nickatina & Aesop (hip-hop)
Saturday, March 9: Audiodub (reggae)
Friday, March 15: Lil Debbie & Smoove-e (hip-hop)
Saturday, March 16: Monkey (ska)
Saturday, March 23: Riotmaker & CENTERsighT (reggae-rock)
Monday, March 25: HR from Band Brains and Downtown Brown (reggae)
Saturday, March 30: Judas Thieves (heavy rock)
Saturday, April 6: Two Peace (hip-hop and reggae)
Sunday, April 7: Krs-One (hip-hop)
Saturday, April 13: Space Camp, Adlib (hip-hop)
Saturday, April 20: Clear Conscience (reggae)
Thursday, April 25: Bumpin Uglies (ska)
Friday, April 26: Sad Boy Sinister, Lucky Eejits, Fortunate Son (punk rock)
Saturday, April 27: Pacific Roots (reggae)
Saturday, May 18: RepresA & Apollos Key (metal)