“I’ve been coming here since 1969,” said Skeeter Medina, perched on a barstool at Gus’s Place. “There were six of us, all friends growing up in Pueblo, and we decided to check it out. I was 20, and I’ve been coming here ever since.”
“We’re the oldest bar in Pueblo,” said owner Gino Mittino, tending bar on an unseasonably warm weekday afternoon.
“We were the first bar to get a liquor license after Prohibition, and we’ve been continuously open since then. That makes 84 years — not bad!”
The tavern was opened by Mittino’s step-grandfather, Gus Masciotra. After Gus died in 1965, his mother Evelyn and her husband Freddie Masciotra ran the place, followed by Mittino in 1996.
“I worked here for a couple of years in the ’70s,” said Mittino, “and then I spent 20 years at King Soopers, and came back here in ’96. That’s 41 years in the food and beverage business.”
Gus’s is famous for its Dutch lunches, consisting of locally sourced lunchmeats, provolone, pickles, peppers and fresh bread from Zoelsmann’s Bakery, another iconic Pueblo business. The bakery is located a few blocks from Gus’s on East Abriendo, where it has been for 123 years.
Situated just steps from the west gate of the vast steel mills of Colorado Fuel & Iron, Gus’s enjoyed many decades of prosperity before the mills were shut down.
“Back then, the tavern was packed all day and through the evening,” recalled Medina. “The steelworkers would come here, smoke their cigars and drink beer. They’d come in at noon for the Dutch lunch, and just stay here if their shift was over.”
“There were three shifts a day,” Mittino said, “and I think there were 10,000-12,000 workers at the mill. Now, the blast furnaces are long gone, and there are just 1,000 workers or so, melting down scrap.”
Gus’s is a cozy neighborhood place with a dozen seats at the bar, a half dozen booths on the opposite wall and a couple of tables in between. Yet it figures so prominently in the community narrative that it’s listed in the Pueblo Register of Historic Places.
According to the register listing, “1201 Elm Street has functioned as an important community gathering place since 1892. The building served as … an early African-American church, and later as a Mesa Mission for immigrants … between 1910-1920. The current use as a neighborhood pub dates from 1934, the first year after Prohibition, and demonstrates the neighborhood and community’s dedication to this distinctive place.”
Above the booths, the walls of Gus’s Place are packed with photos and memorabilia. There’s a 1984 article from the National Geographic praising Gus’s, a 1960s column from the Denver Post, family photos and a celebrity photo or two.
“In the 1940s, we were in Ripley’s Believe It or Not three times,” said Mittino, “for the most beer sold per square foot of any bar in the world.”
Nowadays, the surrounding neighborhood is noticeably rundown, and the clientele is older.
“This week has been pretty slow so far,” said Mittino, “but things usually pick up towards the end of the week. And I think the neighborhood will improve, but it all takes time.”
The bar has been for sale since 2015, following the death of Mittino’s mother, Evelyn Masciotra, 94. Originally listed for $350,000, it’s now available for $250,000. That includes the tavern, an attached three-bedroom house, a double garage and all furniture, fixtures and supplies.