In the fall of 1990, Vanilla Ice was ruling the charts, “The Simpsons” was entering its second season, the Internet seemed like science fiction to most and a Benicia institution opened its doors for the first time.
Bottom of the Fifth, located on the corner of Military East and Fifth Street, is about to celebrate its 25th anniversary. In that time, the sports bar has been a place for Benicians to drink beers and watch sports games, but the building had housed several different businesses before that.
“When I was a little kid, it was a Pentecostal church,” Owner Bruce Adams said.
In 1979, the building became a bar called The Landmark, which lasted until the late ‘80s. At the time, Adams was running a bar on First Street called JM’s.
“The landlord called, this place was sitting empty, and I made a deal with the owners to come up with an option to buy,” he said.
Adams opened Bottom of the Fifth with the goal of providing Benicia with a cleaner bar than some of the other taverns in town.
“Back then, there were four or five neighborhood bars,” he said. “I was trying to make one a little nicer in 1990 than everyone else’s, and I did it. I was wildly successful.”
Adams was able to keep people coming back with the amenities he offered. When the bar opened, it had three pool tables and four TVs for patrons to watch.
“That was state of the art in 1990,” Adams said.
As the name suggests, sporting games have always been a major emphasis of Bottom of the Fifth. The TVs are tuned to games of every kind from NFL to MLB to rugby. With the advent of DirecTV,’s NFL Sunday Ticket, the bar has had access to broadcasts of football games across the country.
“For 21 years, we ran a 49er booster bus that went to Candlestick Park every home game,” Adams said.
The saloon has had plenty of changes over the years. Over time, the number of TVs expanded from four to nine, and the biggest change occurred just a few years ago: Bottom of the Fifth added a kitchen. This happened as a result of Adams deciding the place should be more than just a neighborhood bar with sports games.
“Times change,” he said. “What worked in 1990 didn’t work in 2010. We morphed into a more of a place to get something to eat and have something to drink.”
After a few years of renovation plans, Bottom of the Fifth re-emerged in 2013 as a sports bar with a remodeled design and full-service kitchen. Visitors can sit down and nosh on appetizers such as onion rings and chicken wings or eat entrees like burgers or fish tacos. All the items are freshly prepared and never frozen.
Despite the changes, Adams has held firm on one thing: no minors.
“There’s enough family places downtown for people,” he said. “This is a bar where you can get something to eat.”
Bottom of the Fifth will hold a 25th anniversary celebration on Saturday, Nov. 21, where all beers will be half price.
“We wanted to roll everything back to ‘90s prices, but nobody wanted to do the math, so we just made everything half off,” Adams’ son Sam said.
Additionally, Sam says the bar is close to selling its five millionth drink. When that happens, the customer who purchases it will be rewarded.
“The winner will get free food and drinks for a week,” he said.
After over 40 years in the bartending business, Bruce is satisfied with his accomplishments.
“I couldn’t be happier with the way my 25 years have turned out here,” he said.
Bottom of the Fifth is located on 498 Military East. The bar is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day, and the kitchen is open from 11 a.m. to midnight.