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Antlers Saloon takes a final bow

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Ack! Say it ain’t true.

Twisp’s famous — some would say infamous — Antlers Saloon and Cafe shut its doors on New Year’s Eve after decades of serving up cold beer, crispy chicken, toe-tappin’ ragtime music and a juicy lineup of the most interesting tavern patrons to ever hoist a mug.

No fern bar, the taxidermy-lined saloon (yes, real antlers on the walls) was the heart of Twisp’s two-block downtown for 80, maybe 90 years. Residents used it like a living room — stopping by for coffee, chit-chat or a “healthy” noontime beer laced with tomato juice — while visitors considered it a must-do experience

Local writer Karen West posted a comprehensive piece about the Antlers on Methow Grist, the Methow Valley’s terrific community website, and eloquently captured the saloon’s roughneck history. “It’s a place filled with stories of brawling loggers and gunshots, crazy drunken stunts and multi-generational family dinners — all overseen by a row of mounted deer, moose, bison and sheep heads,” she wrote. “There’s simply no other place quite like it.”

Appropriately, the rollicking Hottell Ragtime Band helped close the Antlers with a final performance on Monday — a day shy of the 41st anniversary of their first appearance at the piano under the giant moose head on New Year’s Eve 1972. Through the years, the band played there hundreds of times.

Robin Madison, owner of the tavern since 1994, will see the building auctioned Feb. 14 at a foreclosure sale at the Okanogan County Courthouse.

So farewell, Antlers. We’ll think of you every time we hear the plink-plink of a ragtime piano and offer a toast to what many considered the region’s best-ever saloon.