There was a time before Roberto’s Bar became Figaretti’s, before a La-Z-Boy showroom was transformed into TJ’s Sportsgarden, prior to when the Swing Club became Generations Pub and before the Owl’s Nest became the Edge Bar.

Oh, and Dr. Donald Lough’s Gentle Dental Care? Once upon a time, that was the location of Mac’s Club on Washington Avenue.

It was, when a patron first walked in, a dimly lit tavern that was long on the left but short on the right, and the establishment was pretty much all bar with only a few prized tables, a real dart board, one-dollar test tube shots and mugs hanging from above the seldom empty stools.

All the way in the back of the bar were two larger tables on each side, and steps to a private party room hovered close by, and during those elbow-to-elbow evenings patrons were usually four or five folks deep.

Some recall Mac’s Club at 98 Washington Ave. as the hangout for Wheeling Jesuit students, while others believe it was the only establishment that featured a chance for West Liberty pupils to be introduced to their parochial counterparts.

The Pleasanton Ballfield is just up Valley View Avenue from the former location of the tavern.

“That’s one of the main things I remember,” said Brent Worls, a graduate of Wheeling Park High and a frequent patron of the corner club. “I met so many students from Wheeling Jesuit who are still my friends today, and that wouldn’t have happened without Mac’s. And, if you think about it, there’s not such a place now in the city where the students from both schools just hang out and become friends.”

And when referring to the watering hole, one must always include, “On Washington Avenue” because of the Mac’s Holiday club on Wheeling Island.

“There was always a lot of confusion,” said Lynne Walton, a bartender at Mac’s Club for several months in the mid-1980s. “I would tell people where I was working, and they would go to the Island bar instead of the one on Washington Avenue. Once that happened, I started making sure I told them where it was.”

Neighbors of the bar often registered complaints with city police because of late-night noise, discarded beer cans, parking problems, and romantic rendezvous. Martin’s Market was caddy-corner across Washington Avenue, the Pleasanton ballfield was down the street, and the plaza that once featured Foodland and the Pizza Inn was nearby.

“There were tons of calls about that place nearly every single night,” recalled Marty Kimball, a deputy chief for the Wheeling Police Department and a longtime veteran of law enforcement. “And they were always over the fire code limit on the weekend nights. It was a really popular place.

“It was a really small place, too,” he said. “And when closing time finally arrived, several of the neighbors would call the station because of the noise made by all the people leaving. And, yeah, there were a few fights right outside the door of the bar.”

The Washington Avenue Plaza parking lot was very popular with the patrons that frequented Mac’s Club.

People parked as far away as the Christ United Methodist Church at the intersection of National Road and Washington Avenue, and they would fill the plaza lot and the spaces in front of homes along both ends of Valley View Avenue.

“That was always an issue with the nearby businesses and with the residents,” Kimball reported. “There wasn’t much we could do about a lot of those of the complaints because they were public spaces. I know the businesses and the plaza posted signs, but that didn’t do anything to help the residents in that area.”

For many years, the legal drinking age in West Virginia was 18 for beer and 21 for wine and liquor, but in 1972, the age requirement for all alcohol was decreased to 18. That all changed after Congress passed the National Drinking Age Act in 1984 that mandated each state to increase the age to 21 for all alcohol by October 1986 or risk losing 10 percent of funding from the Federal Highways Administration.

The ages of the clientele at Mac’s Club, though, seemed to range between 17 and 30 years of age most evenings, and a bouncer was seldom near the front door checking IDs. The crowds at the establishment swelled near the holidays and during the summer months because the city’s college kids returned home, and Mac’s had evolved into the place to be seen.

“It was always crowded, always loud, and I remember serving shot after shot after shot,” Walton recalled. “A lot of them were in those test tubes, too, because people seemed to get a kick out of those things.

Neighbors in the area often complained about noise, and litter left behind by customers of the former club.

“But it was definitely the place to be if you were between 20 and 30 years old. There were people older than 30, too, but when it got really crowded, that’s who was there,” she said. “One after another, they kept coming in, and it really didn’t matter what time of year it was.”

According to records archived by the Ohio County Clerk’s Office, the property, not necessarily the bar business, was owned by Jane (Koshenka) Gibas until 1983, when she sold it to John and Eleanor McFadden. The records indicate Eleanor then sold the two-story structure to Dr. Donald Lough and his wife, Amy, in 1998. Once Mac’s Club was abruptly shuttered, the dentist orchestrated an elaborate renovation that added windows and removed that legendary front door in favor of a ramped entrance to the right.

“That area is so different now that I don’t even remember working at Mac’s Club for the brief time that I did,” Walton added. “And the building where the bar was located is now a dentist office? For a lot of reasons, I just think that’s funny.”

(Photos by Steve Novotney)

12 Responses

  1. Dan Tennant

    I met my wife at Mac’s on June 14, 1990, the night of the Wegee Creek flood disaster that also affected a good part of the Ohio Valley. I was with a friend that night and other than the heavy rains, we were oblivious to the flooding going on around us. We were heading to the Firemen’s Festival in Glendale only to find that the ball fields behind John Marshall High School, where the festival was to be held, were flooded, so we headed to Mac’s. My wife to be was there, barefoot and muddy with a mutual friend, Annie Buch. They had just finished cleaning out Harry Buch’s basement, which was flooding on Linden Avenue across from the former Kroger where the St. Michael’s Angelus now stands. When we closed down Mac’s we went to Harry’s and cooked out some hot dogs from Kroger and just talked well into the early morning hours. I recently graduated with a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice and I remember arguing with my future wife over the rights of the accused vs. the rights of the victim (while still inside of Mac’s Club). I guess we survived that first argument, as we will be married 26 years this July.

  2. Anonymous

    Hated that bar when I lived on that street. I helped get the ABCC to deny a licence renewal.

  3. Tami Pohl Gallaher

    I met my husband at the bar when I was a nursing student at Wheeling College. He was tending bar and operating his plumbing business out if the garage below. We will be married 36 years in June. We still miss Mac’s.

  4. Yam Rutesellar

    Mac’s Club on Washington Ave was one of the major stops on “The Circuit” when home from college looking for who’s out socializing tonight. For me, it was the early ’70’s. Pizza Inn-Mac’s-Alpha maybe The Eagle too more toward the mid-seventies. If the crowd you were seeking wasn’t at one of those places they probably already had disappeared to parties at homes where parents were away on vacation. Mac’s was always shoulder to shoulder… holding your drink at neck level to protect it. The cigarette smoke was heavy enough to cut with a knife and the Pong machine seemed futuristic.
    Legal beer drinking age was 18 and in my humble opinion there wasn’t a daggone problem with that compared to alcohol restrictions put on later teenage years now. Even then you saw college freshman who had been protected from alcohol at their home environment then hit college and went nuts with no experience drinking. It was more sad/scary than funny..but I digress..
    Mac’s Holiday Club on the Island was a cool, neighborhood family bar owned by the McGinley family. “Big Mama” Mac ruled the roost as the maternal matriarch. Fantastic bar food too….

  5. Barry DeProsperis

    Mac’s was a carry out store – owned by John McFadden. The son made it into a bar – run by his son – Doug McFadden – in the mid-70’s. They lived down the street – like I did. It was a great place. Busy as could be in the 70’s. Used to go buy booze with Doug to replenish the stock.

  6. Jerry Lowmiller

    From 1953 to 1956 I lived at 100 Washington Avenue just across the street. I could tell a whole different story about the place. During this time period I was 16 to 19 and it was just a local bar that catered to all. There was a pin ball machine hidden in a little cut out that we were allowed to play and depending on the mood of Mr. McFadden would pay out to us teenagers or sometimes not. At times we could buy beer, but not regularly I believe it was just 3.2. Of course the main attraction for us teenagers was the hot dogs etc. and we only hung out there in the day as in the evening we’d be kicked out. Evenings the teenagers were able to hang out in the basement of Moxie’s Bar just up Washington Ave. (Not sure of the spelling). To keep teenagers out of his bar he fixed up the basement put in a Jukebox and had 10 cent hot dogs and soft drinks for us. This area in the 50s was one of the neatest parts of Wheeling and I have many fond memories of my time there.

    • Dave

      You are exactly correct about Mac’s Bar in the late 50″s I worked for John & Della for 3 or four years. At the age of 14 I was tending bar and serving those 10 cent drafts and the chili hot dogs. I was treated like family by both John & Della. John trusted me to his recipe for the hot dog chili sauce which I still make today. At the age of 16 John handed me the keys to the bar and safe and he and Della when to Mississippi to visit his son John and wife Eleanor . There son Tommy was my best friend growing up on Valley View Ave. I was the youngest bartender in Wheeling for 2 weeks.



    • Alia McFadden Gettler

      Doug is my Uncle and John and Eleanor are my grandparents. So fun to read all the stories about Mac’s! My great-grandparents, John and Della McFadden started Mac’s back in the 40’s! My father, Tom McFadden, grew up in the bar. Eleanor is still alive, 96 years young:) I will be sharing this page with them so they can see what great memories Mac’s gave to everyone! Pretty cool! I remember I used to get all the 45 records from the guy who would come in back in the 70’s to swap out the music. I had a ton of them!!

    • Alia McFadden Gettler

      They are my great-grandparents. We still make the hot dog sauce!! A family recipe that has only been given to a few family members! Eleanor worked there when John, her husband and John and Della’s son was in the war in the 40’s-50’s. My father Tom, worked there for years in the 70’s then my Uncle Doug. It was in the family for years!! Eleanor is still alive, 96…she will be so happy to hear of all these great memories people have all these years later!! I am too!

  8. Tom Breiding

    The loudest thing about Mac’s was the crashing bottles they sent down the shoot into the dumpster a story below in the small parking lot they had. I never knew how neighbors could tolerate that….

    • Dave "Bruce" Bartens

      The crashing bottles only happen when you tried to drop too many bottles down the shoot at one time. One of my jobs was to remove the bottles in the collector down in the basement. I would store them in the correct cases for pick up and delivery back to the bottling company. John designed and built this system and did a real good job of it and it worked 99 percent of the time. John famous saying when things would good wrong was “WHAT THE HELL” I have never forgoten that……….


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