Luckey’s Club owner Jo Dee Moine had given up her other businesses and was retired when she learned that the historic bar, in operation since 1911, was up for sale. Moine had owned bars since 1996 and thought she was ready to hang up her hat.
“I had started or purchased about a dozen businesses and was in the middle of my career and decided to sell everything,” she says. “I was worn out.” Moine bought an RV and tooled around the Maritime provinces of Canada for about six months before returning and realizing that she was bored. “Out of my mind!” she says with a laugh.
Her broker brought word that Luckey’s was for sale. Although Moine had lived in Eugene for several years, she did not have a great impression of Luckey’s and had never been inside. Her broker convinced her to check it out.
“I opened the door and I walked in and I was like, ‘Wow! There is nothing else like this in Eugene,’” she says. “It has a beautiful stained-glass cigar sign, neon, all the old cabinetry, and the ceiling fans. It was like an antique store, full of history. You would never be able to tell from the outside what this place was really like.”
In the 1800s and early 1900s, Luckey’s was simply a cigar shop known as “Club Cigar.” Tad Luckey Sr., whose parents immigrated to Eugene from Londonderry, Ireland, purchased the business in 1911 and renamed it “Luckey’s Club Cigar Store.” The establishment survived Prohibition by offering a variety of appealing activities for men, including pool, a shoeshine station, cards, and a sandwich shop. “Tree planters would come in and cash a paycheck,” says Moine. “It was known as a place where a guy could hang out all day long, kind of like a club.”
After Prohibition ended in 1933, Luckey’s became the first establishment in Lane County licensed by the newly formed Oregon Liquor Control Commission, and Luckey spent $300 on a neon horseshoe sign, which now hangs inside, above the stage.
“That was an enormous amount of money back then,” Moine says. “This sign was double-sided so you could see it from both sides, and most people rented their signs, so hanging this sign up was a big deal.” Moine says this neon sign is now thought to be the oldest in existence in Eugene.
After Luckey and business partner Louis De Berg passed away in the ’40s, their widows continued as owners, even though the club had no women’s bathroom and did not serve women. Luckey’s excluded women until the ’60s, as most bars did, and even when they were finally allowed in, women were discouraged from frequenting the place. They sold it to Ben Rayovich, who owned it for about 20 years. It passed to Henry LaClair, who had it for 18 years, and Moine has been the holder of its history for 16 years.
In the ’70s, Eugene undertook an urban renewal project and many old downtown buildings were razed, including the original Luckey’s building. Rayovich, the owner at the time, sought to preserve the tavern, so he purchased the lot across the street and painstakingly reconstructed Luckey’s, from the cabinetry and bar to the signage.
“A lot of love and attention went into recreating the old building,” Moine says. “A lot of the original things are here, but it also has a women’s bathroom, modern plumbing, and a sprinkler system!”
Moine purchased Luckey’s in December 2001, shortly before Eugene closed Olive Street for construction and re-opened it to street traffic. A citywide indoor smoking ban also took effect that year, and the previous owner, LaClair, was convinced the combination would spell the end of the storied bar. But it wasn’t—although Moine says she spent a tense few months that summer waiting for construction to end. And after Moine introduced live music, its popularity soared.
“The Great Depression didn’t kill it, two World Wars, the downtown pedestrian mall, and the smoking ban didn’t kill it,” Moine says proudly. Luckey’s has since introduced burlesque, comedy, Grateful Dead jams, and traveling bands for entertainment almost seven nights a week.
“It now attracts quite a diverse crowd,” Moine says. “Everyone’s welcome as long as they behave.”
Moine sees herself as a caretaker of this unique and historic bar, and is proud that a new generation of people has discovered it. She says she has people visit weekly who recount stories of their grandfather bringing them to Luckey’s to shoot pool or of having their first beer there decades ago.
“Everyone who has been in Eugene long enough has a story about Luckey’s,” says Moine. “I feel like I’m here to make sure it’s cared for into the future and the lights are kept on and there’s always something to do every night.”
Moine also owns the Starlight Lounge, and, with business partners, The Drake, one of downtown’s newest spots. When Moine took over Luckey’s, there were far fewer bars downtown. As each new bar opens, Moine says Luckey’s has only grown busier.
“There’s a reason Luckey’s has been here 107 years,” she says. “It’s pretty timeless. It’s a great location right in the heart of downtown, and it’s just going to keep getting better.