BUZZ: The Wort’s expansion comes full circle

By on May 19, 2015

The Silver Dollar Expansion at The Wort unveils this weekend. PHOTO: JAKE NICHOLS

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – The historic Wort Hotel is not trying anything radically new with their expansion of the Silver Dollar Bar; instead, managers want to restore its heritage and bring it back to the forefront of entertainment in Jackson Hole.

On August 5, 1980, a fire consumed much of the second floor of The Wort, forcing them to cut the bar into pieces and remove it from the building, moving it to the vault in the Jackson State Bank while they renovated the hotel. Before the fire, the area where the new expansion project is currently underway was called The Greenback Lounge, Jackson Hole’s premier concert venue at the time.

The hotel was forced to shut down after the fire and the town was left in suspense as to whether or not it would reopen its doors after the tragedy. Sure enough, only a few days after the flames subsided, the hotel posted a sign out front declaring, “We’ll be back,” dispelling the concerns of the town. The Wort reopened their doors in June of 1981 with a celebration that kicked off the annual “Old West Days” celebration on Town Square. When the hotel reopened its doors, however, the Greenback Lounge on the southwest corner of the building was no more. It was converted to guest rooms, a gift shop and office space.

Bill Baxter, owner of The Wort Hotel, has wanted to expand the bar to its original capacity for quite some time. Not only is this an intelligent business move for the Knoxville, Tennessee native, but it also jives with the hotel’s long-standing committment to maintaining its historical old west mystique in a city growing rapidly around it.

The expansion will “build on the music momentum and return the Wort to its grandeur and rich tradition of entertainment,” said Jim Waldrop, general manager of The Wort. “The Greenback Lounge was once a linchpin in the Jackson Hole community—it was the place to be.”

In turn, the Wort is sparing no expense on its new sound system, he said.

The hotel wants to become a premier venue for music and establish itself as the destination it once was. The Wort will increase its music bill to four nights a week: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The new space, to be dubbed the Silver Dollar Showroom, will have a stage in the southeast corner of the room, across from the second bar. This second bar is a replica of the namesake Silver Dollar bar that already exists, though about two-thirds of its size.

Waldrop would not disclose how many silver dollars would adorn the new bar — yet. The Wort has a competition on its Facebook page to see who can guess the number of silver dollars embedded in the new bar. PJH hint: the original bar contains 2,032 uncirculated Morgan silver dollars from the Denver Mint. The winner receives one night’s stay in The Wort Hotel, breakfast and dinner for two in the Silver Dollar Grill, a Meet Me at The Wort coffee table book, and a reserved table at a future Showroom event.

The Showroom will not only act as an extension of the already popular Silver Dollar Bar, but will be a space where banquets and other private events can be hosted behind a retractable wall.

Not only has the hotel been working hard to get this construction project completed by Saturday, but employees have been tirelessly preparing for the increased business they will see as a result of expanding the bar’s capacity. They have purchased larger equipment for their kitchen, enlarged service stations, streamlined the menu and hired what they hope to be more than enough additional staff to accommodate the new volume of guests.

The expansion is about The Wort’s commitment to the local community first and foremost, Waldrop said. Not only in the sense that managers are reinvigorating a historical landmark and a popular watering hole, but they’re making a more concerted effort to include local breweries on their taps and to employ local musicians.

The Wort has planned its Grand Celebration opening of the Silver Dollar Showroom to coincide with Old West Days celebration on Saturday, coming full circle to a weekend they started when they reopened their doors after the fire in the 1980s.

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