San Benito Lifestyle

The Panoche Inn: Not just a bar and restaurant, but a community center

Located in South County, the Panoche Inn is a popular destination for locals and people driving through the Panoche Valley
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42 miles south of Hollister in the Panoche Valley rests a one of a kind bar and restaurant that resembles a more simple time before chain restaurants and the bustle of traffic and focus on technology. With a one room school house down the road and an American flag greeting customers at the entrance, the Panoche Inn has become a destination for both locals and people on a Sunday drive through the Panoche Valley. Stepping inside the restaurant, customers find books and VHS tapes to trade, dollar bills from all over the world pinned to the ceiling, a jukebox in the corner, and dollar ice creams.  The view from the front porch of the Panoche Inn is wide-open, with fall's golden fields and the unobstructed blue sky.

Believed to have been in operation since the 1930s, the Panoche Inn switched owners earlier this year to Kim and Sam Lippert who have lived in the area for the last 23 years. In an interview with BenitoLink, Kim Lippert said that the Panoche Inn is special to the area as a result of having “been here so long." She said, "It is a little destination point in the middle of nowhere. It is a place people can get away from the hustle and bustle and relax”. People who frequent the restaurant range from locals living in the valley to people working for the Panoche Valley Solar Program. This destination is not just for locals however. As Lippert shared, there are repeat customers who drive in from all around the county just to stop by, as well as people from out of the country who are traveling through, exploring old California.

Justin Collison and Jenna Lombardi are two such customers. Wanting to have a friendly place to relax and socialize both come out to the Panoche Inn roughly three or more times a month from Hollister. When asked what the appeal is to drive out to the Panoche Inn, Collison said, “For one the drive is nice. It's a quiet, cozy place to hang out and have a beer”. Tim Kirby, who lives in the valley, shared that the Panoche Inn is like an, "oasis," where, "people come and leave having a good time, good comradery, and good food". This comradery grows when Lipperts hold monthly special events.

“On Friday nights we play Pedro. It is mostly the locals but we do have some people from Hollister and Paicines,” Lippert said. The game night, which starts at 6 p.m. in the winter and 7 p.m. in the summer, includes a potluck and everyone brings something to share. The Panoche Inn also puts on a barbeque once a month from March through September to celebrate their customers. According to Lippert this Friday, Nov. 18, the restaurant will be putting on, “a customer appreciation day," in which carnitas will be served from 1 p.m. and will go until “whenever”.

“It is more like a community center than a bar.  It has just become really close because everyone swings in and in the winter we have coffee going," Lippert said. She said when it gets cold customers, "sit by the fire and talk. It kind of turns into the community center because there is nowhere else really to hang out”. After all, as Kirby explained, "Where else can you come and get a large ice cream cone for a dollar?"

Just a suggestion: If you decide to take a drive in the winter months, check road conditions and weather before you head out to the Panoche Inn.

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Becky Bonner

Becky Bonner is a local teacher at San Benito High School who is passionate about sharing things to do in San Benito County.