CC SA-BY Our Oakland

Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon is a historic bar in Jack London Square. It opened in 1883 in a building made from pieces of an old whaling ship. The floor is sharply tilted, resulting from pilings underneath shifting in the 1906 earthquake.

The story goes, "during the 1920s, Alameda was a dry town. The Alameda ferry was nearby, making the bar a traveler’s last chance for a drink when going to Alameda (and first when vice-versa), it was renamed from J. M. Heinold’s Saloon." 2 Except that Oakland was dry during Prohibition (1920-1933), too.

On January 7, 1975, Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon was designated an Oakland Landmark, under Zoning Case #LM 74-335.

Jack London

As a schoolboy in the late 1800s, Jack London studied at Heinold’s. Jack confided in owner John Heinold about his ambition to attend the University of California. Heinold loaned him tuition money, but Jack only lasted a semester at university. He later returned to Heinold’s where he wrote his notes for The Sea Wolf and Call of the Wild. Heinold’s is referenced 17 times in John Barleycorn.

John M. Heinold’s First and Last Chance, Oakland, California (May 1928) 1John M. Heinold (Oakland History Room)


Heinold’s is popular both with visitors to Jack London Square and with residents. The bar’s interior is small, dark and (as noted) steeply sloped, but its adjacent dog-friendly, smoke-free patio is a favorite on sunny days. A large mural featuring Jack London is painted on the side of the building, and several plaques note its landmark status. The place has a full bar, but no food. If you want to drink on the patio, alas, you must do it from a plastic cup.

The owner for the last 31 years has been Carol Bookman.

CC SA-BY Our OaklandCC SA-BY Our OaklandCC SA-BY Our Oakland Carol Bookman and bartender, 2015
CC SA-BY Our Oakland


Every Year Heinold’s is the meeting point for the East Bay contingent of Santacon who imbibe, take a group photo, and ferry over to meet the SF Santas. (photo and another)

Links & References

  1. Image(s) used by permission of the UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library
  2. Oakland’s Oldest Bar on Oakland North