Local bar seeks national recognition


Story by Katie Bast, OP/ED Editor

There’s no sign above the door. No neon beer signs in the windows. It could even be overlooked and swallowed up in the chaos that is a Saturday on Water Street. But The Joynt is anything but ordinary and soon could be nationally recognized.

The 42-year-old bar is seeking a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, but to those who know it well, The Joynt will always be an important part of Eau Claire’s history.

In association with the Eau Claire Historic Preservation Foundation, the bar applied for the registry. President of the foundation Janice Wnukowski said she thinks Eau Claire could do more to recognize its historical places.

“It would be an important move for The Joynt to be put on the national register,” Wnukowski said. “It would give it certain protections and it would be nice for the city of Eau Claire to give it the designation.”

The National Park Services compiles the National Register of Historic Places. In order to be placed on the register, a number of criteria are considered. According to the Parks Service website, the main tenants are age, integrity and significance.

Two years ago, it was brought to owner Bill Nolte’s attention that The Joynt was the last place on Water Street eligible to be put on the list that hadn’t already. He recently decided to help the foundation submit an application.

Nolte bought The Joynt on Aug. 9, 1971 and has spent the time since filling it to the brim with history. Pictures of the various musicians and poets who have performed there over the years line the walls. The Joynt has hosted over 30 Grammy award winners.

“If there’s any place in town with genuine history, that overlaps and continues, it’s here,” Nolte said. “When you’ve been somewhere long enough, whether you like it or not, you develop some kind of history.”

But to people who call themselves regulars at The Joynt, it’s more than just the famous faces that keep them coming back. To Roger Schulz, a UW-Eau Claire senior geology major, it’s the familiar faces that make The Joynt such a special place.

“The staff is unbelievable here,” Schulz said. “Always friendly and willing to talk to you. Bill is always around. I like being able to talk to the owner and learn things about the history of the town, because Bill will sit and tell you about when this was here and that was there.”

Schulz said on any given day, he can expect to see at least a few acquaintances at the bar. The simple aspects of the space are what distinguish it from other Water Street bars to him.

Most other places on Water Street serve whichever group of students happens to be around at any given time. Their clientele changes from year to year.

“If you’re in here with a group of your friends,” Nolte said, “you might also be in here with people who graduated 10 or 20 years ago.”

As much as some twenty-somethings would loathe admitting that they frequent the same bar as their parents, long-time bartender Craig Aasen said that might be inevitable at The Joynt.

“If you’re an Eau Claire person, chances are your parents hung out here,” Aasen said.

Even on a Friday afternoon, students can be found sitting at one of the front tables, just taking a break from class. That’s one of the most important differences for those who prefer The Joynt over other Water Street bars.

Schulz said at any other bar, people would have to yell, but not at this bar. This quality makes it a relaxing place even for a midday break.

“I use it as my lunch break,” Schulz said. “I sit down, I’ll have my lunch, I’ll have a beer, b ——- with Wes or Craig depending on who’s working, and just relieve the stress of the day.”

The casual, friendly atmosphere in combination with the star-studded past makes The Joynt historic beyond just Eau Claire.
“The bar’s already nationally known,” Aasen said. “It’s just not official yet.”