Bring your bike, tour the soon-to-open HandleBar in Downtown Boise
If you want to act like a regular, don’t park in front of the pub.
Wheel your ride inside. Past the cleaned-up restrooms that used to be blanketed in punk stickers and local band graffiti. Past the bar that once poured Hennessy for late-night hip-hop fans. All the way to the rear, where 25 bicycle parking spots have replaced a stage once shaken by ’90s acts Mudhoney, Green Day and Korn.
Hang up your bike.
Order a pint of, say, Chainbreaker White IPA.
Belly up to the HandleBar.
On pace to open before the end of June, the tavern at 1519 W. Main St. is the reimagination of a building that blasted live music for more than a quarter century. Wall hangings are now made from bicycle seats. Tap handles are wrapped in bike chains. Handmade furniture adds a rustic feel.
HandleBar owner Ezra Jackson, a former Boise bartender, has transformed the space into an inviting fusion of two of his favorite things: brew and bikes.
“My brother raced,” Jackson says. “I grew up in the Foothills. I was always on a bike.”
The HandleBar concept began as a “bike-themed bar,” he explains. “And now it’s more of a functional bike-themed bar.”
Unlike the building’s prior days as the Crazy Horse, guitars won’t get tuned here. Tune up your bike instead. Two bicycle work stands are mounted to a wall. A large toolbox will be stocked with tire levers, chain tools and the like.
Where did that idea start?
“It came up kind of like, your garage,” Jackson says. “You’re working on your bike in your garage, and your buddies are hanging out, and you’re having beers, and it’s a great time. So — make it a little bit bigger!”
The HandleBar will open with 25 rotating beer taps and five wine taps. Everything served by the glass will be on draft — no cans or bottles. A modest selection of larger beer bottles, such as barrel-aged varieties, and bottles of wine will be available. There is no kitchen — unless you count the old popcorn machine that came from the Bogus Basin upper lodge.
Uh-oh. Spent too much time lubing yourself instead of your bike? Leave your bicycle locked up overnight at one of those indoor parking spaces.
Need to charge your phone to call a cab? Plug into one of the USB ports at the tables. “Bike lights, phones, iPads — all that fun stuff,” Jackson says.
The HandleBar redefines the term “bike-friendly.”
“It’s really going toward building a bike community,” he says. “Growing that and making it a spot where people can all meet.”
Jackson has more plans. Board games. Monthly bicycle giveaways. Track standing and circus-bike competitions.
Track standing? (That’s when you balance your bike while stationary.) While drinking beer? (That’s when you swallow alcohol.)
Um, let’s assume there will be waivers involved?
“Well, yeah!” Jackson says, laughing. “There’s gotta be!”
I know what you’re thinking: This could be a cool hangout — but perhaps better off in Hyde Park, where all the cyclists seem to congregate?
Jimmy Hallyburton, executive director of Boise Bicycle Project, thinks the HandleBar has potential at 16th and Main.
“It doesn’t seem like there’s any bars out there that have necessarily claimed that bicycle crowd too much,” Hallyburton says, “so hopefully he has some success there. It’s been a tricky spot for some bars.”
“They’re supposed to enhance the bicycle infrastructure on all those streets quite a bit,” Hallyburton adds. “So, really, if you’re coming in from the North End or even from the Greenbelt, you should be able to hop on those roads and get to it pretty quick.”
(I also hear there’s a fancy stadium supposedly in the works down the road.)
Hallyburton compares the HandleBar to the Power House, a business in Hailey. It’s a combination tap house, restaurant and bike shop. “People love it,” he says.
Jackson is aware of his building’s history. Yes, bars have come and gone. The second incarnation of the Crazy Horse shuttered in 2015.
Still, he’s optimistic.
“That’s the cool thing about this bar,” he says. “It’s never been appealing to the neighborhood, and there’s a huge neighborhood around here. And so now it’s mostly just for bicyclists. It’s really built around the community and bicycling and beer and wine.”
Patrons-to-be have shown support by helping him with remodeling and furnishings.
“I would probably be a year out if it wasn’t for all the volunteers,” Jackson says.
One thing seems clear: If Boise truly is a cycling town, the HandleBar is geared for it.