Stag Saloon

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1904 advertisement for the Stag Saloon

The Stag Saloon, also called Rensford Brothers, was a bar operated at 225 20th Street North, on the southeast corner of 3rd Avenue North, on the site of the former B. F. Cheek drug store.

The saloon; which sold wine, whisky, liquor, cigars and tobacco; was operated by Tom Rensford and his brother, Harry. The specialty of the house was "Old Monongahela Rye". The storefront "attracted considerable attention" one night in October 1893, with the installation of "a painted noble stag... illuminated by electricity, alternately in red, white and blue."

They remodeled the interior expanded into an adjoining space for a "jug and bottle department" in 1900. Along with the renovations, the brothers began offering a "Stag Luncheon" on weekdays from 5:00 AM to midnight.

Above the saloon was the private Olivette Club, often reported to host illegal gambling. In April 1896 Captain William Weir led a raid of the establishment, seizing $141 and arresting 44 people. In October 1901 police chief C. W. Austin assigned officer W. E. Jordan to remain at the saloon and observe who came and went from the club upstairs. The Rensfords swore out a warrant for trespassing, but Jordan was found not guilty. An adjoining restaurant was operated by William Fidger.

Tom Bensford died in 1906. Harry Rensford was shot to death outside the saloon on December 28, 1912. The shooter, T. Jones Abbott, also died from gunfire. Accounts differed as to who shot first.

In the 1910s the former Olivette Club was converted into the Stag Cafe, featuring the popular merchant's noon lunch for 25¢, as well as "elegant private dining apartments for ladies."

The Stag Saloon was closed during statewide prohibition which went into effect in 1915. The premises were renovated by J. B. Smith in 1915 for a restaurant and milk depot.

The building in which the saloon was operated was demolished in the 1920s for construction of the Porter Clothing Co. building.

References

  • "Man and Boy Alike Caught in a Game of Craps." (April 27, 1896) The Birmingham News, p. 3
  • "The Stag Saloon Makes Improvements." (September 26, 1900) The Birmingham News, p. 4
  • "Ordered Him Out: Stag Saloon Objects to the Presence of Officer in the Building." (October 12, 1901) The Birmingham News, p. 18
  • "Policeman Jordan Found Not Guilty" (September 26, 1902) The Birmingham Age-Herald
  • "Receiver for Saloon" (July 6, 1906) The Montgomery Advertiser
  • "No Need to Investigate Killing Saloon Man" (December 22, 1912) The Montgomery Advertiser
  • "Second Victim of Pistol Duel" (December 23, 1912) The Tuscaloosa News, p. 1
  • "Former Saloons Are Being Rented" (July 9, 1915) The Birmingham News, p. 3
  • "Today 25 Years Ago" The Birmingham News (October 29, 1918), p. 8