In 1952, Bobby Denton and Emry Oxford opened a place on Woodrow Wilson Avenue that they called The Dutch Bar. After several location changes, the popular hangout landed on Northview Drive in the top of Fondren. It closed in 2002 for good, but the final owner, Sidney Gunter, was the proud owner for 25 years. His widow, Dianne, says it was her late husband’s pride and joy.
In high school, Sid was a Dutch Bar customer. After graduating from Central High School in 1956, he joined the Marines and was stationed at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Dianne says he was to reenlist, but instead was honorably discharged and came home.
Sid worked for Southern Air Lines, but when Delta bought them out, he quit.Â It was at that time he set his sights on buying The Dutch Bar. But the owners weren’t ready to sell. So Sid bought The Cherokee (at the time on North State Street) and owned it from 1971-76.
Finally, The Dutch Bar came up for sale in 1977. And Sid bought it.Â He ran the place until his lease was no longer renewed. He always planned to open another Dutch Bar somewhere else, but Dianne says cancer slowed him down. Sid passed away in 2003.
Dianne remembers The Dutch bar as a melting pot of sorts. “We had doctors, lawyers and financial advisers but also truck drivers and construction workers (who were regulars),” she says. “It was like a family there. If we needed something done, we always had a customer who could help.”
“The Dutch Bar was a great bar,” Dianne goes on to say. “We had a young and old crowd. At one time, we sold more Budweiser beer than any other bar except The Dock.”
Dianne remembers the whole back of the bar burning one night. Sid took it in stride. “He got a keg from Budweiser and set it up in the parking lot so people could come by and see the burned building. I always thought that was crazy,” she laughs.
Sid was always known as “big-hearted.” Dianne says he would give anyone anything. “Sid would buy Christmas for the children’s village kids every year,” she explains. But it wasn’t for glory. “He grew up poor so he knew how it felt.”
Nearly 700 people signed his guest book at his funeral. “The Dutch Bar was so much a part of our lives for 25 years,” Dianne says. “Our girls – when they got old enough,Â and found out their dad owned it – they thought they were big stuff.”
Dianne says owning such a piece of nostalgia wasn’t unusual. “We had a normal life. The Dutch Bar was just what we did. It was a great place.”