A Tahoe City institution: Pete N’ Peters celebrating 40 years of business
Special to the Sun
If you go
What: Pete N’ Peters 40th anniversary party
When: 6 p.m. Saturday, June 18
Where: 395 North Lake Blvd., Tahoe City
Learn more: petenpeters.com, or call 530-583-2400
TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Forty years is a long time for a business to survive the challenges of life at Lake Tahoe.
But Pete N’ Peters has done it following a simple formula: Have great bartenders, put out a good product, and make it a comfortable place for both locals and tourists to hang out.
It was a true sports bar before there was even such a thing as a sports bar, and it all started because in the 1970s, Tahoe City was a softball haven.
From the 1970s through the 1990s, there were up to 65 different teams playing various forms of softball on the field at Tahoe Lake School. For a generation, it was the prime form of summer entertainment, drawing up to 1,000 people to see men, women and coed teams.
In 1975, Perata Excavation’s team was Nevada state champs, and in 1978, Tahoe City hosted the Men’s Fast Pitch National Championships. Although the tournaments were a big draw, the women won the award for best names, with the Truckin’ Tomatoes, Meadow Muffins, Perata’s Petunias and Perata’s Punks.
After the game in the early 1970s, the raucous group of ballplayers would hang out and have a few beers, telling tall, and perhaps loud, tales at some of the drinking establishments in Tahoe City.
According to Peter Paine, who played on a team with Pete Perata, “the other bars didn’t want softball players.”
PETE N’ PETERS IS BORN
Paine and Perata then saw a business opportunity: They would start their own bar and make it a place where all those players and their friends would feel welcome.
They opened Pete N’ Peters in February of 1976. It wasn’t fancy. It didn’t sit right on the highway and was easily missed if you didn’t know where to look. The decor was simple: ‘70s pecky cedar with pool tables, shuffleboard and a ton of old softball trophies.
But it quickly became the place to go for softball players and their friends, and to keep the patrons coming, Pete N’ Peters sponsored a number of teams.
The outgoing and gregarious Peter Paine served as a bartender while Pete Perata continued to run his Perata Excavation Business. Perata not only knew and sponsored a lot of softball players, but he also knew a ton of building contractors and he made sure they felt welcome right from the start.
In 1978, David “Johnny B” Rutter joined the crew, first as a bartender. In 1983 he bought out Pete Perata, who had moved to Kauai for several years to do the excavation for a large development project.
Paine said of Johnny B’s arrival, “Every girl in town was going to where he was tending bar. He would keep the guys from bugging the girls.”
GIVING BACK TO THE COMMUNITY
I recently interviewed Pete, Peter and Johnny B together, and they all said a prime focus of the bar has always been to make it a place where women could feel relaxed.
In 1983, “we started summer softball sweepstakes,” Rutter said. Packed street dances were held in the parking lot, and people would buy raffle tickets to claim the prizes donated by businesses throughout town.
They raised over $225,000 for the North Tahoe High School athletic programs between 1983 and 2005, when Rutter and a number of other business people in town formed the North Tahoe Booster Club to take over the task.
In 2009, Rutter bought out Peter Paine’s interest, and a few year’s later he went into partnership with Jonny Roscher, who owns Za’s Restaurant at the back of the building.
Since its inception in 1976 there have been a string of restaurants operating adjacent to the restaurant. It started out with Soupiere, then Ric’s, then Colonial Claire’s, and for a brief period Paine and Rutter opened up a place called The Green Room.
“We found out we were not good cooks,” says Rutter.
Then in 1988, Jonny opened Za’s and it ran successfully until 2005, when Roscher decided he needed some time off. For several years the space remained vacant. Then after the Hawaiian Grill came and left, Roscher came back to reopen Za’s and went into partnership with Rutter. Now each owns a portion of both businesses.
LOYALTY AND PROFESSIONALISM
What has made this bar stay alive for 40 years?
“I think our success has mainly been through the bartenders we have had over the years. You just can’t say enough about the job and loyalty and the professionalism they have shown us. People come in to see the bartender,” said Rutter.
Suzy Walden, known as Suzy Q, has been one of those bartenders for 18 years. She says the key to Pete N’ Peters success is the combination of the supportive local community and second homeowners, who treat the bar as a stop they make when they come to Tahoe.
“You always love when someone introduces you to their 21 year old son or daughter who was conceived after a night at Pete N’ Peters,” said Walden.
While no longer a co-owner of the bar, Pete Perata is still a frequent visitor, helping to keep the shuffleboard table in good shape and dining at Za’s.
“Peter Paine still comes by to entertain us — it is the Peter happy hour,” said Walden.
Pete N’ Peters is celebrating its 40th anniversary from June 1 to 18. From noon to 9 p.m. every day, 1976 prices are in effect, including $1 draft beers and $1.50 well drinks.
A grand celebration is planned for June 18 at 6 p.m. with food, music, dancing and a reunion of long time Pete N’ Peters friends. petenpeters.com, 530-583-2400
Tim Hauserman, a nearly lifelong resident of Tahoe City, is a freelance author and cross-country ski instructor. He may be reached at email@example.com.