Photo by Rebecca Steiner
New Vera’s Tavern owner Rick Grubb and manager Belinda Lewis stand at the front bar in the shadow of original owner Vera Dickerson’s photo. Dickerson opened the bar at 1043 Oakwood Ave. in 1948.
ALTON — Tucked along Oakwood Avenue is an old concrete building, home of a bar that has quietly become an Alton mainstay for nearly 70 years.
When Peat and Vera Dickerson opened Vera’s Tavern at 1043 Oakwood Ave. in 1948, early patrons were greeted to a dirt floor while quenching their thirst after a hard day’s work (concrete was not poured until the following year).
For more than 65 years, the Dickerson family has continued to own and operate the establishment (with a brief exception when the business was leased out to an outside party). Now, a true changing of the guard has occurred with the purchase of the bar last October from owner Patty Dickerson to a Godfrey farmer, Rick Grubb.
“To be truthful, I play in the stock market quite a bit,” says Grubb, who owns 300 acres in Macoupin County and farms wheat, corn and soybeans. “I think it’s out of steam, so I thought I would try something new. I have to have something to do. I don’t farm as much, so I need to keep busy.”
A cash-only establishment with an in-house ATM, the bar features six televisions, a legal indoor smoking room and arcade games and serves Jack’s Pizzas. Grubb says he also is applying for video gaming.
“Every day we are getting more of our working class stopping in after work,” manager Belinda Lewis says. “The bartenders are great and friendly and really care about our patrons.”
Vera’s Tavern is home to local pool leagues and dart leagues that run seasonally year round. There are three electronic dart boards and two pool tables and the leagues run Monday through Thursday evenings. Free pool play to patrons is offered when league play in not in progress.
The new owner used to spend a lot of time at the pool tables, but says owning the establishment has cut into his recreational activity. Early each morning, he arrives to clean and stock the bar and prepare for that evening’s business. Lewis runs the bar in Grubb’s absence and works every day except Sunday.
Future plans for Vera’s will begin with the exterior.
“We are going to put a new roof on the building,” Lewis says. “We are also looking to expand the rear parking lot and make it safer for our patrons, and we have already added new outdoor lighting. We want to take care of the outside first to make it more welcoming, than we will make some small changes to the inside.”
Summer leagues will be starting in May and the bar is looking to sponsor new teams for the Metro East Billiard League.
Vera’s is open from 1 p.m. until 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 3 a.m. on weekends. Rather than daily specials, the owner says they prefer to keep prices low every day. For more information, stop in or visit the Facebook page at Vera’s Tavern on Oakwood.