Open Bar

Albuquerque Press Club

(Christie Chisholm)

Albuquerque Press Club
Albuquerque, NM

Year opened The APC didn’t have an official home until 1973, when it bought a turn-of-the-last-century, three-story log cabin referred to as the Whittlesey House, named after its architect.

Distinguishing features The APC is haunted—at least, that’s what locals will say when you take a seat at the old, knotted bar. And you’ll believe them. The resident ghost, according to staff, is “Mrs. M,” the spirit of Clifford “Cliffy” McCallum, who lived in the Whittlesey House for 40 years, starting in 1920. It’s also possible the cabin is visited by neighboring apparitions, who wander over from the former asylum a short distance down the hill and up the street (Elm Street, actually). Local lore tells of club doors opening themselves and wails coming from empty rooms.

Who drinks here You need a membership to get in (a National Press Club membership will also do), but anyone can buy one. About half of APC’s memberships come from reporters, bloggers, and the PR crowd, but the club is also a favorite haunt for local politicos. With the film-industry boom in the city, more familiar faces sometimes make appearances. “Brad Pitt came in one night,” says manager Jonathan Wright. “I actually carded him.” The actor didn’t ask for a drink, just a bottle of water. The bar didn’t have one.

On the record During Prohibition, residents of the house made bathtub gin in an old bathroom off the bar that now serves as a storage closet. In a nightly offering, bartenders past had a longstanding tradition of leaving a shot of gin at the end of the bar each evening, says Wright. By morning, the gin was always gone. “There was also a cat that lived in the building,” he adds with a wink. Her name was Emma. Her ashes rest in a tin on the bar’s top shelf.

Off the record Wright tells a story of a night not long ago, about a bartender named Jessa going through her nightly closing routine, turning off all of the lights and locking the doors. “As she was driving away, she looked back and noticed all of the lights on the upper floor had turned back on,” he says. “She kept driving.”

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Christie Chisholm is a CJR senior editor. Follow her on Twitter at @c_chisholm.