The woman behind the Texas T Pub, San Antonio’s oldest bar

The first thing to know about Texas T Pub is where you’ll find it: downtown. Not far from the Alamo, it shares a building with Paris Hatter’s cowboy hats on Broadway. Like any good pub, by the time you walk in the door at 2:30pm the space is gloomy and cavernous, further drawing you in with its promise of cold beers.

There is a digital jukebox, two pool tables with two mirrors and a bigger is better style flat screen that catches the eye. Ghosts from America’s indoor smoking era seem to hang heavy and low, the bar cleaner than most dives but never fully scrubbed by the years.

There is an ATM (of course Texas T is cash only) and there is a long wooden bar at the very back to ease your hassles. Often seen behind? Adela Loera-Fuller, the young 74-year-old owner and self-proclaimed “lady of the house”. When I meet her she’s wearing red lipstick, tiny Vans loafers and a black cowboy hat like a crown – she owns 25 different hats.

We talk about their bar while various regulars tell me how special it is. I’m drinking a Lone Star, she’s drinking her signature Bud Light.

“I’m just in love with life,” she tells me right away, repeating it several times later throughout our conversation.

Walking through the bar on Monday afternoon, she evoked something of maternal awe from all the well-salted regulars.

The downtown workers, the day drinkers, the silver-haired ponytail pool players. I watched them all fall like dominoes in a line as they saw them, good sons and daughters, taking their hand in theirs while saying hello.

“I tell my sister to take care of herself, she still wants to be behind the bar and be here. She loves meeting people,” says bar manager Terry Loera, Loera-Fuller’s younger sister.

Even the Texas T Bar cat, small and gray, who had recently endured the ordeal of being kidnapped and brought back by a well-known downtowner just days earlier, sauntered over to pay respects to Loera-Fuller (the cat’s caper story is one for a different time).

Kitty Cat, resident bar cat at the Texas T. Pub.

Camille Sauers/MySA

Like any small, long-standing business where people gather, the Texas T Pub is a whole world unto itself, and as far as I can tell the growth has been fairly organic since it opened in 1986.

The unique old-school family quality can place it a notch above the rest. It was the only bar in San Antonio to be featured in a new book, Texas Dives: Lone Star State’s enduring neighborhood bars, written by Anthony Head and photographed by Kirk Weddle. His inclusion was a huge plus for anyone who knows the Texas T Pub as a home away from home. Of course, the crew celebrated this last week with a party and book signing at the bar.

Texas T Pub established in 1986.

Texas T Pub established in 1986.

Camille Sauers/MySA

Texas T at the beginning

Loera-Fuller and her late husband Thomas Fuller first opened the bar in October 1986 after having the opportunity to rent the abandoned properties. They had a 9-year-old son at the time, Adela’s Stolz, and soon began renovating the premises with the help of Terry and her brother.

It was decided to name the bar after Thomas and their son Tommy Texas T.

No one in the family had bar experience, so they learned on the fly. Thomas was an optometrist, Loera-Fuller met him when she worked as his assistant before becoming school administrator. The buttoned-up life was never her thing, she says, she loves people too much for that.

She made friends quickly and mixed drinks at Texas T, and spent her free time going to Spurs games (she loved Sean Elliott) and attending shows at The Majestic.

In the ’90s the family also ran what is now The Texan (formerly known as The Texas T Pub II) where they sold beer and wine. It was an after-hours place of sorts and stayed open for a decade. “That was our fun bar,” Loera-Fuller tells me.

Thomas died four years ago. Today, Loera-Fuller and her sister are at the Texas T in some form almost every day.

Pool players at the Texas T Pub.

Pool players at the Texas T Pub.

Camille Sauers/MySA

community over the years

Inez Pisconti began frequenting the Texas T Pub 30 years ago when she was a waitress at Dick’s Last Resort on River Walk. She quickly became friends with Loera-Fuller and called the bar even after five years of relocating to Ireland just to catch up with her and all the regulars. She told the bar owner to order a round from her, and when Pisconti finally returned years later, Loera-Fuller joked that it was time to pay her bill.

For the past several years, Pisconti has made it a point to place a Dia de Muertos altar in the bar every fall to honor the bar regulars, who now visit the bar only in spirit, and other loved ones, who have died.

“They were there for me personally, through my marriage, through my divorce, through my mother’s death and my brother’s death. It’s not just about you know, it’s a community,” shares Pisconti.

Another pool player, Eddy, tells me that he takes care of Loera-Fuller like a mother. “When I met her, it was that instant connection,” he says. “She’s alive, she’s always smiling, it’s amazing.”

More bar patrons approached, barely audible over the digital jukebox. One claimed to work at a funeral home, another a businessman named Rafael who has been a fixture at the bar for 25 years. I watched a newcomer introduce himself to Loera-Fuller, his first time coming here. He said he liked the place because it reminded him of small town Texas, the town he came from.

In the coming years, the sisters plan to work to the end and keep the bar in the family (they have many nieces and nephews to help them). As for the space, they have always rented the space from family run business Paris Hatters and don’t see that changing anytime soon.

“Here we are,” says Loera-Fuller. “It was a great trip.”

Find it: 121 Broadway, San Antonio TX 78205

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