Sunday, January 13, 2019

This is the Cal-Vada Lodge, circa 1940. Just below the lodge on the right (not shown) and hard up against the edge of the lake is the Cal-Neva Lodge, first built by Larry McElvy and then rebuilt after a fire in 1937 by Bill Graham and Jim McKay. 

The photos below from 1995 may help explain a few things about the small casinos at the juncture of Stateline Rd. and NV 28, at Crystal Bay, Nevada, and how they were used.

Clearly there is a road on the left of the building below, and to the right and shown below is the reconstruction of another building that also was named the Cal-Vada Lodge. Yes, there was gaming!

In 1931, when gaming was legalized, the Cal-Vada Lodge opened as a casino. Ownership changed in 1935 after the owners of the Cal-Neva Lodge (Graham and McKay) went on trial for mail fraud in a race-wire scheme outlined in the book Mob City: Reno.

About that time a new casino opened across the street to the left of the Cal-Vada Lodge. It was imaginatively named the La-Vada Lodge. It is shown in 1995 below, going through yet another face-lift.

The new club had lodging, and business was brisk. The group of buildings was sold to Frank Mercer and Mac Barrett in 1942. Mercer also operated a club at South Shore named the Main Entrance.

In 1950, Joby Lewis purchased the larger building from Frank Mercer and reopened as the "New Cal-Neva Lodge."

Joby was offered a small space along the Tahoe Biltmore in 1954, and he moved into what was called Joby's Monte Carlo the following summer. He sold his old club to Bernie Einstoss and Frank Grannis who brought in Bandleader and owner of the Bal Tabarin restaurant in San Francisco as a partner along with Andrew Desimone and Tom Guerin.

The late 1950s sparked a grand ending for the building under the new name the Bal Tabarin. With a newly expanded kitchen, the club featured high-class meals, great entertainment that included headliners like Mel Torme, and music all night long during the summer months. There wasn't a hotter night spot at the lake than what the Bal Tabarin and the Cal-Neva were offering every week.

The casino had over 90 slot machines plus two craps tables, roulette and the occasional chuck-a-luck game. Amid the music from the band, the smoke, the shouting at the craps games and the clanging of the slot machines, nothing could have been better for players in the late ‘50s.

In 1959, Lincoln and Meta Fitzgerald, who owned the Nevada Club in Reno, purchased the Tahoe Biltmore, the Bal Tabarin, and Joby's Monte Carlo. They ran the clubs for just one year before closing the Bal Tabarin down. Then, they expanded their club and renamed it the Nevada Lodge. The Monte Carlo became a large restaurant.

The entire Cal-Vada lodge and Bal-Tabarin remained boarded up until the remodeling of the smaller lodge in 1995 and the demolition of the larger casino the following year. The remodeled property is still intact and the Crystal Bay Club Casino owns it. It's not as big time as Las Vegas, but it's beautiful.

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