Booche's makes 2013 list of Columbia's most notable properties

Tuesday, February 5, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:43 p.m. CST, Tuesday, February 5, 2013
The downtown building that houses Booche's was built in 1925 and has been occupied by the restaurant since 1927.

COLUMBIA — A sign hangs on the wall inside Booche's on Ninth Street: “Parents of unattended children will be asked to leave.” This sign, the wooden bar and six billiard tables contribute to an atmosphere steeped in history.

On Monday morning, co-owner Charlie Kurre was busy opening cans of tomatoes and beans and measuring teaspoons of spices including black pepper, chili powder, cumin and garlic. Booche's has been making chili by the potful every morning with the same recipe that's been used for decades.

The restaurant and its menu are unapologetically reluctant to change, Kurre said.  

Kurre started working at Booche's in 1985 and, along with co-owner Rick Robertson, is intent on maintaining the history of the business.

“We haven’t changed anything since I’ve been here," Kurre said. "Nothing’s changed in the last 28 years; if it’s not broke, why fix it? ... When you start changing things, it’s not really Booche's anymore.”

Booche's is one of six properties in Columbia designated one of the Most Notable Properties of 2013 by the Historic Preservation Commission. A recognition program for the properties will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the lobby of the Daniel Boone City Building, 710 E. Broadway. The event is free and open to the public. 

Other properties given the designation for 2013 include the Neidermeyer Apartments downtown, three residential homes built in the 1900s and the Pi Beta Phi Missouri Alpha Chapter House built in 1930.

Booche's was named to the list as one of the most intact historical locations in downtown Columbia, according to the commission. The building itself was built circa 1925, and architecturally, Booche's continues to maintain the original storefront and many interior features of the original building, including the bar.

"The historic part of Booche's is Booche's the business, not the building itself," said Brent Gardner, vice chairman of the Historic Preservation Commission. "A lot of people when they think of what's historic in Columbia, they think of Booche's. There's an aura, a feeling of history. You can't be open that long without that feeling."

Booche's was opened in 1884 by Paul "Booche" Venable and has been in operation ever since in downtown Columbia, though at different locations. The business has resided at its current home since 1927. Since opening, the restaurant has gathered a following of regulars and attracts substantial business year-round from Columbia visitors. Kurre estimated he cooks about 2,000 hamburgers each week for about 1,700 customers.

At the mention of their regulars, Kurre and Mark Alexiou, a bartender since 2000, start to laugh.

The regulars are easy to spot because employees have their drinks made and food on the grill before they get to the end of the bar, Alexiou said. Customers fill a wide spectrum of blue and white-collar workers, students and professors, he said.

“We have guys come in every day and play billiards," Alexiou said. "Some come in every day and order the same food or same drink. It’s a cornucopic mix of people.”

For the sake of their regulars, the owners and staff at Booche's focus on preserving the culture within the restaurant by not changing things, from the menu to the décor.

Photos of Missouri sports teams dating back to 1892 adorn the walls. St. Louis Cardinals memorabilia is commonplace, and the same menu has hung on the wall facing the bar since the 1970s.

"For a lot of people, it’s just a consistency people are comfortable with," Alexiou said. "It’s hard to keep a thing historical if you keep updating it and taking away that which made it classic."

Supervising editor is John Schneller.

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