Roanoke will lose a piece of its history later this year.
It’s doubtful to raise the ire of any Roanoke Valley preservationists when a nondescript building along Wise Avenue in Southeast Roanoke (most recently the home of Vinton Roofing) is demolished to make room for the city’s first traffic circle.
However, in years past the two-story block, brick and stucco structure was one of the most newsworthy and notorious in Roanoke.
Back in the 1960s, it was Papa Joe’s, a beer joint reputed to be the first topless bar in the Bible Belt. Its fame — or perhaps infamy — stretched for hundreds of miles.
The proprietor was George “Papa Joe” Christofis, an Egyptian-born Greek who had a mind for business and an outrageous flair for publicity. On the side of his building, he painted in large letters, “The place that made Roanoke famous.”
That was not much of an exaggeration.
Papa’s Joe’s would go through as many as 18 kegs of beer on a weekend.
“He held the state record for draft beer,” Maria Christofis, the entrepreneur’s daughter, said of her dad.
At Papa Joe’s, the money came across the bar so fast there was no time to count it. Instead, bartenders raked it with their hands into peach baskets set on the floor and did the counting later.
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