While I don’t intend to promote drinking and driving – I do think all Marinites over the age of 21, should go into Smiley’s Schooner Saloon & Hotel on Wharf Road in Bolinas and order a beer and a shot, their best seller. Why? Because this historical saloon is one of the oldest bars in the state, it has a colorful rich history – and we’re lucky to have it in our county.
For the Magazine:
Smiley's has been in continuous existence for more than a century. And thanks to current owner Don Deane, the former editor of the Coastal Post, the colorful history has not been forgotten. Said to be built for a young Captain Isaac Morgan, who arrived in Bolinas (or Jugville) in 1849, the iconic property survived Prohibition by blacking out all the windows but one and positioning a barber chair and other such paraphernalia in it so they were visible to passersby. The bar was then accessed through a secret door; the likes of Al Capone crossed the threshold. Other owners and names came and went until, in 1955, an Italian immigrant named Ismaele “Smiley” Biachini purchased the building. A meticulous refurbishing occurred in the 1980s under then-owner Robert Glen, who eventually passed it on to Deane. As of print time, the bar is for sale, but Deane promises to only sell to buyers who agree to retain the property’s unique charm.
What They Say: Don Deane, former owner
Is Smiley’s a dive bar? Absolutely.
Your definition of a dive bar? It’s a tricky question. Extemporaneously it’s a neighborhood bar that has an attraction for outsiders who want to be there to experience the bar. There is nothing polished about it.
Describe Smiley’s. It is the oldest continuously operating saloon in the state of California. And there is always something that amazes the new visitor.
Dive Bar Checklist:
Games? Yes, pool, video, pay computer, jukebox.
Celebrity photos? The 1800s version.
TV is always on? No.
PBR available? Yes.
Muddled cocktails? What?
Fake fireplace? No.
Food is served in bags (chips, nuts, etc.)? Yes. We also have corn dogs.
Smiley’s T-shirts? When we have them.