Santa Fe Basque restaurant to reopen as a sports bar

The place debuted on North Lake Street in 1949

The Santa Fe Basque restaurant, in the Santa Fe Hotel, was a Reno mainstay from 1949 to 2020. After being closed during the pandemic, it is reopening in 2022 as a sports bar, the owner said.

The Sante Fe is coming back.

Without iceberg salads and braised oxtail and communal dining but — crucially! — with Picon punches.

In an exclusive discussion with Reno News & Review, owner Dennis Banks said he plans to reopen the Santa Fe as a sports bar in May or June of 2022. Banks admitted he was torn between the Santa Fe’s tradition of Basque dining, with long tables of folks (often strangers) helping themselves, and the new exigencies of the restaurant business.

“That family-style situation — people sitting around the table with people they don’t know — that isn’t going to work again for a long time, in my opinion. Now, with all the new activities downtown, the new residences, people need a place they can go.”

The restaurant, on the ground floor of the Santa Fe Hotel in downtown Reno, opened in 1949 on North Lake Street. It shuttered after 71 years in July 2020, a closing brought about by dining restrictions and falling traffic as the coronavirus pandemic took hold.

A new name, perhaps?

The Santa Fe already has a large bar. A second smaller bar could be built, Banks said, to service what is now the large dining area when it’s divided into private areas that groups can reserve.

Banks said he’d received offers to buy the building, “including a very attractive offer, but they were going to tear it down, and I didn’t want that to happen.”

But if the Santa Fe building is remaining, the name might not be, Banks said.

“I love the history, but I don’t know: Santa Fe doesn’t say sports bar. But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be Santa Fe Sports or something. I’m open to suggestions.”

Other restaurants

Banks purchased the Santa Fe building in July 2017 from the family that had owned it since the late 1940s. He closed the restaurant for renovations over the next two years, reopening in July 2019. A year later, it would close for the final time.

Banks, the owner of a local construction company, also owns the Napa-Sonoma restaurants and Mexcal, a well-regarded tacos and tequila spot at the northern entrance to Midtown.

Johnathan L. Wright is the food and drink writer for Reno News & Review. Follow him on Twitter at @ItsJLW or on Facebook personally or at @FoodNevada. Sign up here for the Reno News & Review free weekly newsletter highlighting our most recent stories.

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