Palo Alto's last dive bar, the beloved Nut House, calls it quits for now. 'We just can't afford it anymore.' | Peninsula Foodist | Elena Kadvany | Almanac Online |

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Palo Alto's last dive bar, the beloved Nut House, calls it quits for now. 'We just can't afford it anymore.'

Uploaded: Aug 21, 2020
Barely two months ago, the 49-year-old Antonio's Nut House reopened triumphantly after a monthslong closure with a new outdoor patio, new chef in the kitchen and hope for a reimagined future that included food pop-ups.

But amidst the economic losses of the pandemic and uncertainty about when the California Avenue dive bar will be able to serve people inside, the owners have decided to close the Nut House again, at least for now.

The Nut House's last day of business for the foreseeable future will be tomorrow, Saturday, Aug. 22.

Antonio's Nut House reopened at 321 California Ave. in late June with new outdoor seating. Photo by Elena Kadvany.

"We're losing a lot of money. It's just too difficult to conform to all the regulations and maintain our pricing," said Jess Montooth, who took over the dive bar with his siblings after their father, Tony Montooth, died in 2017. "Our only hope of returning the business is if indoor dining or indoor bars are approved. Other than that, we're done."

Montooth said outdoor dining has been going OK, but that business has fallen due to the summer heat wave (and now, poor air quality). Construction work on a parking lot behind the bar also negatively impacted business, he said. They ran through a $80,000 federal loan through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) quickly, he said.

When the dive bar reopened in late June, the owners brought in Darius Johnson, a self-taught chef and Palo Alto native, to run the kitchen. Johnson, for his part, said he's going to go back to selling food out of his home, which he did before getting the gig at the Nut House.

The lease on the 321 S. California Ave. bar expires in December. The Montooth siblings had been hopeful they would extend the lease or find a new home for the Nut House before then, but the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic feels too great.

"If we knew in three months you can open back up, we'd stay open," Montooth said. "We need the money. Just with the forecast being, no answers for anybody — it's hard."

Antonio "Tony" Montooth pours out some of his special margarita mix for a patron in April 2015 at his eponymous bar in Palo Alto File photo by Michelle Le.

If indoor bars or dining is allowed to resume before December, Montooth said they'll reopen.

If the Nut House doesn't return, it will mark the end of an era for Palo Alto's last dive bar, known for its cheap drinks, peanut-strewn floor and unpretentious, colorful vibe. Montooth said he spent most of Thursday, after making the final decision about closing, in tears.

"Everyone that knows and loves the Nuthouse knows we are fighters," he wrote in a Facebook post announcing the closure. "Hope to see you when or if we can open our doors again."
We need your support now more than ever. Can we count on you?


 +   12 people like this
Posted by Justin Case, a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood,
on Aug 21, 2020 at 11:57 am

Justin Case is a registered user.

The era of pseudo mid-peninsula
'dive bars' has been has been on the decline prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Barney Steele's (Redwood City) & the 101 Club (Mountain View) are long gone & Fred's (Mountain
View) is currenty closed, not to mention those two dumps along Moffett Boulevard (the Cottage was one of them) & Ugly's on ECR.

The Nut House 'golden era' was during the late 80s to about 2010
when Tony ran the business & the bar was frequented by those of the Baby Boomer & Gen X age groups + a few oldsters...with a very active pool culture as well.
The snapshots on the walls summed it up pretty well.

The later years ushered in male bartenders & a Millennial crowd...younger & far more unenlightened on a variety of conversational topics except for maybe high-tech & social media.

Glad to have patronized the establishment when it was a fun place to hang out...those days are long gone as times change.

If the Montooths had actually owned the property perhaps they could have ridden out the storm but since Tony passed, the place gradually grew somewhat uninteresting & unentertaining...unless one was of a typical millennial mindset bearing no sense of history and esoteric topics.

 +   10 people like this
Posted by ALB, a resident of College Terrace,
on Aug 21, 2020 at 3:52 pm

ALB is a registered user.

Can someone who knows Zuckerberg please alert him to save this quirky bar which he used to frequent when he lived off California Avenue in College Terrace. I know he is loyal to the Sols and that he spent a good deal of time at Antonio's Nut House. This fun gathering place is an institution in Palo Alto. This would enhance his rep which is in need of help right now. So do something for the community and step up to keep the endearing bar open.

 +   1 person likes this
Posted by LC, a resident of College Terrace,
on Aug 21, 2020 at 9:10 pm

LC is a registered user.

I honestly think place died with Tony. Once you couldn't smoke and drink outside, it was over. In fact, the era of smoking while drinking at a bar has also died. It's symbolic and sad, yet we will be okay. Maybe something really awesome develops in its place to honor the therapy sessions had there. To honor the old folks who used to go there. To honor the slice of working class people that used to be able to afford living here. To honor the people's lives that this place impacted. To honor the couples that met, children born because of the place, and the meet ups of your buddies. We need to do something like affordable housing for seniors, veterans, and the disabled. Something like community kitchens that help chefs like Darius on the ground floor so it remains as our adult rec center. I really really hope we are super mindful of what that lot goes to. It's a special place. Someone tag Alta Housing.

 +   2 people like this
Posted by Forest, a resident of Mayfield,
on Aug 21, 2020 at 10:47 pm

Forest is a registered user.

Thank you, Elena. I appreciate your articles.

The Nut House is between VISA and Tableau (wtf is that on the first floor, is that a bar?). That tells you what will occupy the lot.

I put my money on a Crunchbase office goes in!

 +   6 people like this
Posted by Justin Case, a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood,
on Aug 22, 2020 at 11:55 am

Justin Case is a registered user.

>"Can someone who knows Zuckerberg please alert him to save this quirky bar which he used to frequent when he lived off California Avenue in College Terrace...This would enhance his rep which is in need of help right now. So do something for the community and step up to keep the endearing bar open."

^ Who cares about Zuckerberg's 'rep' or public image?

Besides...his presence did not make/break or establish the Nut House's earlier vibe.

 +   2 people like this
Posted by Paly Guy, a resident of Barron Park,
on Aug 22, 2020 at 8:10 pm

Paly Guy is a registered user.

Has anyone heard of GoFundMe? . . . every restaurant in the Bay Area got money from GoFundMe for pandemic . .Cafe Borrone asked for $300k! . . .

 +   4 people like this
Posted by Alvin, a resident of Professorville,
on Aug 25, 2020 at 7:31 am

Alvin is a registered user.

I wish you would stop purposely stating that the "pandemic" caused the business losses. It is the RESPONSE to the virus (assuming it's real) -- the lockdowns, prohibitions, and orders -- that are putting these people and their workers out of business, not a disease or virus. Did Hong Kong Flu of 1968, Asian Flu of 1957, or even the Spanish Flu of 1918 cause an economic meltdown, force businesses to shutdown and later serve only outdoors, lead to 40 million unemployed?

 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Betty Ann, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 25, 2020 at 8:00 am

Betty Ann is a registered user.

Palo Alto was my home for 18 years, most of them spent at the Nut House. Many friends and family including then husband, would spend hours there. When a Union (USE, prior to SEIU was being organized, everyone met at "Antonio's" as it was called back then. The last time I visited the Nit House, was at least 10 years ago. It had changed, the old vibe was gone, I didn't recognize anyone, aside from my friends I went in with, hahaha.
The Nit house holds so many great memories. I am sorry to hear it may permanently close. After living in Midtown, I moved to the South Bay, two years ago I moved out of state. My last job was in Palo Alto.
miss the "old" Palo Alto of the 70's and 80's. Thank you for the walk down memory lane.

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Mike , a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 28, 2020 at 7:09 pm

Mike is a registered user.

[Post removed due to copyright infringement.]

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