Jenny Luna
Special to the Bonanza

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February 5, 2014
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Meet Your Merchant: Billy’s under new, enthusiastic ownership

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — As 2013 came to a close, Billy Stroud officially retired as owner of Billy’s Bar, and Incline residents Steve and Amanda Thomason took over.

Steve described the New Year’s celebration as “a night for Billy and his crew, for our crew, and everyone in between.”

As the till changed over, Billy’s local legacy of 26 years bartending came to a close, and so, too, did Steve’s one year as an employee.

“For seven years I was asking (Billy) to sell me the bar, and he finally gave in,” Thomason said.

Since coming to Incline as a college student in 2000, Thomason has had his eye on the place.

And besides replacing Raiders photos with 49er and Giants memorabilia, he wants to keep the same friendly, fun and safe environment that Billy cultivated as owner for 15 years.

“We call customers by their first name,” Thomason said. “That’s what Billy brought into this bar and that’s what I hope to continue.”

Steve and Amanda have plans for a future remodel and potential name change, but for now it’s still Billy’s Bar.

“It’s my bar — but you can call it Billy’s, call it Steve’s, whatever,” he said with a laugh.

INCLINE IS HOME

Steve’s career working in the service industry began on the Las Vegas Strip when he washed dishes in the back of a bar.

“I was 15 years old and came home and told my mom after the first day, ‘I’ll own my own bar one day,’” he said.

A few years later on the East Coast, Amanda got her start working in restaurants as a hostess and a server.

The couple met six years ago at the Hyatt, with Steve running valet and Amanda serving at the Lone Eagle Grill, and Incline Village has been their home since.

“When we got married we thought, ‘wouldn’t it be cool if we could do our own thing?’” Amanda said.

Originally, the couple planned to both tend bar at Billy’s. But Amanda’s news two weeks before they took over the bar changed everything.

The Thomasons, now a family of three, will become a family of four this year and all of their plans for Amanda working late shifts in a noisy bar have been put on hold.

“If we can get through this we can get through anything,” Amanda said of all the new changes. “The next two years will be babies and the bar — we will be busy.”

LOOKING AHEAD

The atmosphere and local feeling of the bar will remain the same, but Steve has some new ideas for Billy’s.

He attributes much of his knowledge to his previous work with Will Brigham at Incline Spirits and Cigars.

“Will helped me expand my knowledge of wine, beer, ordering — he really helped me to grow from an educational standpoint,” he said.

Craft beer, a new area of alcohol for Steve, is something he’s excited to explore and share with the community.

Indian pale ales such as Racer 5, Mojo and Lagunitas, as well as Left Coast Brewery’s Asylum, a Belgium Tripel style beer, are some of his recent additions.

“I want to be able to help educate the community on craft beer and what it really means,” Thomason said.

He recently put Caribbean Cask, a 14-year-old Scotch, on the shelves as well.

“I want to expand their horizons as well as my own.”

‘PROUD OF WHERE WE LIVE’

Beyond craft beer and good liquor, as a business owner, Thomason hopes to help Incline Village grow and again become a highly sought tourist destination.

His enthusiasm and passion for what he does at Billy’s carry into his goal of being community-driven.

“We want to bring new concepts and ideas, new blood and love to this town,” he said. “Our generation truly wants to bring this town full circle. We’re proud of where we live.

“We definitely want to see this town thrive and have people say, ‘We want to go to Incline.’”

Amanda and Steve said they look up to other couples who own businesses in the area that are benefitting the community, and the couple hopes to one day try other business ventures in Incline.

“We want to do this and do this well and then hopefully we can pursue other options,” Amanda said.

Steve can be found behind the bar seven days a week, and Amanda and their one-year-old daughter, Evie, frequently come by to say hello.

The bar opens at 2:30 p.m. daily and stays open, Steve said, “as long as people are drinking.”

Jenny Luna is a freelance reporter for the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza and Sierra Sun newspapers. She may be reached at jluna0928@gmail.com.

“We call customers by their first name. That’s what Billy brought into this bar and that’s what I hope to continue.”
Steve Thomason


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Feb 5, 2014 05:40PM Published Feb 5, 2014 03:42PM Copyright 2014 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.