The interior of The Old Pro on June 5, 2022, days before it was slated to close forever. The bar is being brought back by Guillaume Bienaimé, chef and owner of Zola and BarZola. (Photo by Anthony Shu)
By Kate Bradshaw
Last June, The Old Pro, a watering hole and sports bar that had operated in Palo Alto since 1964, shut down due to declining business from fewer office workers in the area and rising rent, food and labor costs, according to its owner.
But now, there are plans to bring it back in the same space on Ramona Street, albeit with a few differences, thanks to Palo Alto restaurateur Guillaume Bienaimé.
The chef and owner of Zola and BarZola, Bienaimé says he plans to bring back The Old Pro as a sports bar and steakhouse, where the food on offer will receive as much attention as the drinks.
"It will very much be a sports bar. It will be paying homage to what has happened there for 20 years, but it will look quite different," he says. "We really want people to come for games but also very much for the food."
He's envisioning the new Old Pro will offer a sports bar menu, but one where visitors can get more a burger or steak in addition to bar snacks.
Another big change for those who remember (or don't recall) rowdy nights featuring the bar's mechanical bull, Bucky: "There will be no mechanical bull," Bienaimé says. "It's just not what we're trying to do there."
"I hope people can appreciate that we're trying to keep it alive for modern times, not make it what it was," he adds.
So when will the new Old Pro open? "We're at least a year out," he says.
Bienaimé says he's assembled a team of investors to bring the plan to fruition, and that several staff members at Bar Zola are going to help lead the new bar program. He imagines that the bartenders on staff will be able to work shifts at either Palo Alto bar.
He says he's excited to reinvent and bring a long-standing community institution back to life.
"Being able to build this great community landmark space – you don't get a lot of those opportunities in your life," Bienaimé says.
More details are going to be revealed as the project progresses, but he says he wanted to share the news about The Old Pro's planned return, given the excitement he's seen from people in the community so far.
"The community deserves to know what's going on," he says.
The Old Pro, 541 Ramona St., Palo Alto, Instagram: @oldpro_sportsbar.