In Homewood in the late 19th Century, the “Tahoe Steamer” used to pull up to a dock that led to a building that housed a post office, a sundry store and a saloon. Today parts of that same building are now Chambers Landing Pier Bar, where patrons are still pulling up to the dock in boats.
There are pieces of the original whitewash siding on the inside of the bar and framed black-and-white pictures depict the olden days of the area. Off to the side is where Kip Yager plays music on Thursdays and Sundays under a surfboard with historic Chambers Landing images embedded in the resin.
It’s a beautiful day at Lake Tahoe; although, whatever the weather it is impossible to be in a bad mood here. This is a place to enjoy the famous Chambers Punch, chat with fellow mariners and listen to stories as you gaze out at the turquoise waters of Big Blue. Generations of people come back year after year to enjoy its history, make memories and bask in the beauty of the environs.
In 2009, Rick Brown acquired the lease of the Chambers Landing pier and restaurant, which is up the dock from the pier bar; he also owns Swiss Lakewood Restaurant. As a young boy, Brown spent his summers on the West Shore, dining, recreating and visiting his grandfather Don Huff Sr., who started a ski area in Homewood in 1936 that was located at what is today Homewood Mountain Resort. Now Brown is aiming to keep the traditions of West Shore alive.
“I remember being 14 years old and driving the family boat to the Chambers snack bar to get a hot dog and a soda before going back over to my grandfather’s place,” Brown says.
He adds that back then there were only a few places on the West Shore in which to hang out: Tahoe Tavern, Homewood, Sunnyside, Meeks Bay Resort and a bowling alley/movie theater that had a Gatsby-like feel to it. As he got older, Rick and his brother Stan started racing their 1960 Chris Craft in Lake Tahoe’s popular boat races — and went to Chambers more often.
“We saw these boats on the water every day; but for one of those days, we all got together and raced each other. We were always competing against our friends, neighbors and other families that lived on the West Shore,” Brown says.
Brown won one such race – the famous Bang and Go Back race – in 1976 and took his trophy into the Chambers Landing bar and told bartender Sid Willeford that he wanted to use it to make an original Lake Tahoe drink.
“I asked Sid to create a cross between a Mai Tai and a Monaco. We went through three punch bowls that day coming up with the winning recipe and mixing up different fruits, then threw it in a blender and put a dark rum floater on it,” Brown says.
There has been a question of who actually created now famous Chambers Punch because Brown’s friend Ted Grebitus also claims to have created it when he won the boat races in 1978.
“But I asked Sid about it before he passed away and he said he would never forget the day that the Chambers Punch was created because the whole bar was decorated in red, white and blue — it was a centennial year,” Brown says.
A sign in the bar marks this contention with the words: “Brown-Grebitus: Invented Chambers Punch: 1976 or 1978.”
Now almost 50 years of Lake Tahoe’s famed boat races later, Brown continues hosting annual boat races and bringing the community together to celebrate Tahoe’s history. One will be held on Aug. 8 at Chambers Landing.
“It’s really gratifying to see families coming back. We have a picture of two guys standing on the dock that was taken in the 1880s. A customer who is now in his mid-80s keeps coming back and telling us stories of his uncle who is one of the men in the picture. It’s nice to see that the traditions of West Shore are still alive and keep coming back to the lodge,” Brown says. | chamberspunch.com