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The Old Pro is making a comeback: Zola owner to bring new offerings to historic Palo Alto sports bar

Uploaded: Mar 9, 2023

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.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Jennifer Broughton, a resident of Professorville,
on Mar 10, 2023 at 7:52 am

Jennifer Broughton is a registered user.

For better or for worse, it looks like this next reincarnation of Old Pros is going to take on more of an upscale presentation.

The former & original quanset-hut site on ECR is what most old-time Palo Altans think of when the name Old Pros comes up and it's current site will be mostly remembered as the former site of the Ramona's restaurant.

Why aren't there anymore lower-end watering holes like Antonio's Nut House, Emerson Street Bar & Grill, The Oasis etc. in the midpeninsula?

Escalating commercial rents might provide the answer (aka landlord greed) because both The Oasis & Nut House were thriving businesses with an established customer base.

Palo Alto is still actively pursuing an upscale appearance by eliminating the past. Remember when The Gatehouse on Lytton Avenue became the now-defunct Spagos?

Unlike other college towns (Berkeley, Ann Arbor, Austin, Chapel Hill etc.), Palo Alto is not hip or cool.

Dullsville would be the best adjective... perhaps more reflective of its current & predominant customer base.

Posted by staying home, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Mar 10, 2023 at 9:14 am

staying home is a registered user.

super happy to see the Old Pro return. Everything evolves, so looking forward to its next iteration.

Posted by Palo Alto Mom, a resident of Midtown,
on Mar 10, 2023 at 10:55 am

Palo Alto Mom is a registered user.

Exciting news! Can't wait!

Posted by Green Gables, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Mar 10, 2023 at 11:03 am

Green Gables is a registered user.

I agree with Jennifer. The Old Pro was, much like Antonio's Nut House, a dive bar and not a tut, tut Palo Alto bar.

Posted by, a resident of Rex Manor,
on Mar 10, 2023 at 3:10 pm is a registered user.

I also agree with Jennifer. The 'new' Old Pro... just another upscale restaurant, maybe with a couple of games in the corner. Palo Alto is Dullsville in my opinion. Live next door, but never go there !!! :-(

Posted by Johnny Yuma, a resident of Blossom Valley,
on Mar 11, 2023 at 4:45 pm

Johnny Yuma is a registered user.

Jennifer Broughton‘s comments are spot-on. The only thing that will remain the same when the Old Pro is resurrected will be its name...

Posted by Julie armitano, a resident of Greene Middle School,
on Mar 13, 2023 at 11:21 am

Julie armitano is a registered user.

I am so happy.
i really like the new owner

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Downtown North,
on Mar 14, 2023 at 10:59 am

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

Maybe call it Vieux Carre and try to steal customers looking for Nola's

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