Wednesday, August 15, 2001

Locals remember the Oasis Tavern as it's torn down

'It was like a Cheers place'

By Ray Schaefer
Enquirer Contributor

        SOUTHGATE — When Kathy Caulfield heard the Oasis Tavern on Alexandria Pike was being torn down Tuesday, she immediately hung up the telephone and drove to watch the demolition.

        The Oasis — known as Jack's Shack in the 1960s and the Steak Out for much of the '70s — has been closed for more than a year. Twin Towers, a retirement community in College Hill, owns the land and has plans to build a retirement community there at an undetermined date.

[photo] Mike Ohmer digs into the old Oasis Tavern on Alexandria Pike in Southgate.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        Ms. Caulfield, who owns the Knotty Pine on the Bayou restaurant on Licking Pike in Cold Spring with her husband, managed the Oasis from 1989 until its closing in May 2000.

        “It was like a Cheers place,” Ms. Caulfield said. “Everybody knew everybody. There were second-generation customers.”

        Cliff Robinson was mowing his yard in the Canon Ridge subdivision across from the Oasis while the bulldozer roared through the building. He recalled the atmosphere of the tavern.

        “It was a local bar that was patronized by local people,” said Mr. Robinson, 56. “The atmosphere was friendly and pleasant.”

        You almost had to be a local to find the Oasis, which could hold 75 people — if they were holding their breath. Trees surrounded the small cement brick-and-wood structure that sat flush against Alexandria Pike just around the bend from the site of the old Beverly Hills Supper Club.

        But Southgate City Councilman Reno Deaton said the food was worth the journey years ago.

        “When Jack's Shack was there, it was famous for fish sandwiches, jack salmon sandwiches,” Mr. Deaton said.

        Ms. Caulfield's father, Jack Kinsella, 66, of Wilder ran the Oasis from 1976 to 1989. He said the establishment opened as Jack's Shack in the 1930s, became the Steak Out in 1970 and was renamed the Oasis when he began leasing it.

        Mr. Kinsella remembers where he was the night of the deadly Beverly Hills Supper Club fire. He was in the Oasis when frightened survivors came down the hill to his place.

        “When they came down the hill, the ladies were barefooted,” Mr. Kinsella said. “(People) wanted to call home. This went on for five hours.

        “We opened it up for the fire departments to give them sandwiches and something to drink. (Firefighters) laid on the floor and were sleeping (between shifts).”

        When Ms. Caulfield took over the bar, she brought in local bands — including Elaine and the Biscaynes, the Modulators and Strange Brew — to play on weekends. She often hosted benefit concerts.

        Twin Towers president Scott McQuinn said his company purchased the land in March. He said it could be years before a new retirement community would be built.

        As the bulldozer tore through the Oasis, Ms. Caulfield took pictures. She also talked about the good memories.

        “I miss the people most,” Ms. Caulfield said. “That's the hardest part. There were so many good people.”


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