Whiskey Creeks’ lost hopes


In years past, Whiskey Creek restaurants in Bishop and Mammoth were kind of the “place to go.” No more. Friday, owner Greg Alexander whiskeycreekcloseclosed the doors of both restaurants. Something like 100 people between the two businesses have lost jobs. Alexander said losses in Mammoth brought down Bishop.

When they heard the news, local residents said they were sad about more depressing news. Whiskey Creek Bishop was a favorite watering hole and dinner house back in the 70s when Sam Walker rebuilt the Kitty Lee Inn. Walker also opened Whiskey Creek Mammoth until he sold both to Greg Alexander about 15 years ago.

Two years ago, Alexander invited a room full of local business owners to the Bishop restaurant where he explained at great length how he had lost the Mammoth business due to real estate machinations and then leased it back. Alexander also described a new remodel then underway in Bishop. It all sounded hopeful and even reminiscent of the older and cozier Whiskey Creek of the 70s which was complete with fireplace, lots of carpet, cushy booths and the most popular bar in town back then.

The last two years did not realize the hope anticipated. Alexander had let the word out that he planned to shut things down on January 24th. He lost his lease to Mammoth Brewing that will move operations into the old Whiskey Creek Mammoth. Alexander told Sierra Wave Media that both restaurants are in a C Corporation and could not be separated easily. He said, “The losses whiskeycreekmamin Mammoth brought down Bishop.”

Alexander called the Bishop restaurant “a good stand alone. We were planning only to be in Bishop but decided to spend one more winter in Mammoth. We really haven’t had a good winter in four years,” he said. The restaurateur said the Mammoth shop was down $200,000 in January. He said, “I didn’t feel like keeping Mammoth open one more winter was a big risk. That was my Achilles heel,” he said.

Alexander explained that his company, High Sierra Hospitality, bought the stock of Whiskey Creek, Incorporated, which included the Bishop and Mammoth restaurants and Angels. He said creditors can come after Bishop for Mammoth’s obligations – not a financially sustainable situation, he said.

Alexander also named the RIM Fire and government shutdown as big problems last Fall and pointed to the current occupancy rate in Mammoth at 32% for the weekend. He also noted that there is “far more competition in Mammoth now. You have to see those things out. The Village is right behind me.”

When we talked to Alexander, he had just finished an hour-long sit-down with Whiskey Creek founder and holder of a note on the business, Sam Walker. Said Alexander, “Sam said he was so sorry. It was bad luck.” Overall, he said people were very kind on the dark day of closure. With hope hard to muster, Alexander said, “We may work at trying to revive this. People are already inquiring.” Meanwhile, the Varsity Soccer coach wants to stay in Bishop for his family.

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67 Responses to Whiskey Creeks’ lost hopes

  1. Brian Williams March 5, 2015 at 12:12 pm #

    Sad to read this. I was fortunate enough as kid to have the oppotunity to fish Arcularius ranch, when it was still owned by the Arcularius family. Great little cabins with wood cook stoves, outhouses, and the sweetest water ive ever tasted dipped with a bucket from the beautiful upper Owens. Those “magical” times are gone sadly. What an amazing place it was.
    When it was time for dinner there was, Convict lake resaurant, Carson peak and Whiskey creek. These eaterys were amazing in the 70s.
    I came upon this article while making lunch and a fond memory popped on my buds. Taste that is. Whiskey creeks curry salad dressing. Mmmm mm. So i did a search hoping for a clone or a chef that shares.
    Sad to see this. I dont know if it was anything like when I was there in the 70s.
    Probably not, it wouldnt have closed.
    Sad to see mentions of Applebees and such. They could never come close to the food or ambiance that Whiskey creek or the others mentioned once offered.
    I guess we have become a McDonald’s society. Sad.
    If any chefs might be able to share the curry dressing recipe. It would ne greatly appreciated. Sad its all memories

  2. ram May 18, 2014 at 9:53 am #

    Street vendors are another sign of a bad economy..

  3. eric May 17, 2014 at 2:00 am #

    WC became a junk sports bar frequented by mostly locals after work. no management. bad food,and poor service led to its demise. it was once before a special place with good food and atmosphere, great music and dance floor downstairs. music was usually local country rock. it was packed. mammoth has been my second home for 30 years. I witnessed this restaurant’s rise and fall like that of so many others. in mammoth, there is not only a base of locals but a substantial pool of wealthy homeowners that expect and deserve more. its unfortunate that owners of places such as WC lost their opportunity. I feel sorry for my town and most certainly for those that lost their jobs. I see so many other long term establishments heading on the same path. me be sad.

  4. BWM March 16, 2014 at 9:07 pm #


    Last one leaving Mammoth, turn out the lights…..

  5. southshoresoldier February 11, 2014 at 10:02 pm #

    Talk about all the bad service you want! Was in mammoth early dec.last winter , looking for a late night bite and drinks, cabbie dropped us off at Whiskey Creek around 9,late by ski town hours on a Monday. Headed up too bar upstairs, no body there but bartender, greeted us with smile and plenty of brews,a few shots as well! , figured kitchen was long closed? But loaded us up with crab cakes,wings,fries,sliders! Sme more shots$ , being in the industry we know good service! One of my best memories of Mammoth, the bartender was so kind ,gave us a ride back too mammoth lodge! Good friends till this day! Youll be missed

    • Ken Warner February 12, 2014 at 10:20 am #

      I think you must have been hallucinating the whole thing. That never happened in Mammoth Lakes.

      • Tom O February 12, 2014 at 2:50 pm #

        Happens all the time to those who give off a friendly vibe. Sorry it hasn’t happened to you Ken…maybe some day.

        • Ken Warner February 13, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

          Diminish me to elevate yourself. How is that friendly? Do you get a lot of free food that way? From the dumpster at McDonalds with the bears?

          • Benett Kessler February 13, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

            Ken, perhaps you might consider that you have done some put downs of others too.

          • Reality Check February 13, 2014 at 4:26 pm #

            Ken, your mom says you should stay in your room

          • Joe February 13, 2014 at 7:26 pm #

            Ken and Desert Tortoise would make a great couple.

  6. Curious January 29, 2014 at 5:10 pm #

    Oops .. Checking every few days ^ not beret . Haha

  7. Curious January 29, 2014 at 5:08 pm #

    Bennett , can you write a piece about the dry cleaners in bishop? Went to drop off some clothes and a sign said it was closed until further notice . I’ve been checking beret few days and it looks like it’s closed for good . How are people going to get their items out ?

    • Curious 2 February 12, 2014 at 10:21 pm #

      Is Bar-B-Q Bills closed forever or just for “the season”?

      • Benett Kessler February 12, 2014 at 10:54 pm #

        It’s unknown. The owners closed it, but word has it that someone might re-open it.

        • Ken Warner February 13, 2014 at 10:06 am #

          …probably gave away too much food to people with positive attitudes..

  8. Mongo The Idiot January 28, 2014 at 6:36 pm #

    About this Whiskey Creek thing. The valley needs something that is affordable, fun, and good.
    In Carpenteria there is a cook it yourself steakhouse with a salad and Bean bar that runs about $12/$15 a person FOR STEAK!, The Palms. It’s got good authentic Western ambiance, it’s cheap, and it’s impossible to complain about how its served or cooked (unless you are an idiot). They have everything from cheapo burgers to lobster; it would work for the high fluting tourist trade and local on a budget alike. If you put it in Bishop or LP, it would thrive.
    Another great model is JOCKOS in Nipomo; Fantastic oak pit steaks at reasonable prices, people drive from San Francisco and Los Angeles just to eat there.
    I want the valley to have this kind of place where folks who own Cows, Horses, Mules, and Wolf Hybrid Dogs are sittin’ down longside tourists like me for grub. Heck, I have trouble findin’ anyone who doesn’t like a good Western.
    Hey, if my idea sucks I understand, I’ll tell you this though, try those restaurants.

  9. Desert Tortoise January 28, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    Maybe not so much of a market any more for big meals of comfort food and booze in an increasingly health conscious outdoor recreation clientele? Just asking ……

    • Ken Warner January 28, 2014 at 6:44 pm #

      Not only that — there’s an obesity epidemic so fewer and fewer people have the energy to get up off the couch and go to Mammoth to ski. Skiing is not easy if you are out of shape.

      Also, there’s just too many of the same kind of businesses trying for the same shrinking customer base. How many restaurants are within walking distance of Whiskey Creek? At least 5 or 6 or more if you count all eateries. All trying for the same crowd. This is the result.

  10. ULYSSES January 28, 2014 at 1:57 pm #


    • Wondering January 28, 2014 at 3:49 pm #

      Wow are you ever bitter….my thought from your rant is people are rude to you because you are rude to them. I am saddened by the closure of the businesses here in our Community, and what you don’t think about is how it trickles down to all of the businesses here. My opinion, even though you didn’t ask, is people are in business to MAKE money, not lose. Wow what a surprise, and for all the hours they put in, that is exactly what they should be doing!

    • Tony Cumia January 28, 2014 at 5:32 pm #

      Please stop screaming… cap lock off please

  11. gene thomas January 27, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

    Unfortunately, this closing, and the reported closing of Barbecue Bill’s, make Bishop a much less attractive headquarters for out-of-area spring and summer tourists. Previously for many years, a group of six of us would come up for long weekends, fish Lake Sabrina and others (now pretty much dry), and we could always look forward to a meal at Bill’s and one at Whiskey Creek. Without those, other than the high end food at Convict Lake, it is pretty much just “me too” chain restaurant type food and fast food in the area. We were thinking of doing stream fishing for a couple of years even though the lakes are way down, but now, we are going to go further north.

    Tahoe beckons.

    • Pedro January 27, 2014 at 3:06 pm #

      For quality takeout or outdoor seating try Burger Barn in Bishop or Copper Top for BBQ in Big Pine. Holy Smoke for indoor BBQ in Bishop. Hate too see WC and possibly BB go, I’m not much into chain restaurants either.

      • ULYSSES January 28, 2014 at 2:01 pm #


        • Trouble January 30, 2014 at 7:22 am #

          Ulysses, why would you say that? They have great food and great service.

    • chris January 29, 2014 at 9:48 pm #

      We have plenty of other restaurants in Bishop that serve really good food for reasonable prices, and have great service, to boot! Try Astorga’s for Mexican Food; but if you want hard liquor with your taco, go to La Casita. If you’re looking for good pasta, try Upper Crust where they serve beer and wine – next to Smart & Final. We now have an Indian restaurant in the “Rite Aid” shopping center, and a very nice “tablecloth & cloth napkin”, gourmet restaurant where everything served is seasonal and fresh; much of it made on-site – Sage, on W. Line Street across from Dwayne’s Friendly Pharmacy. If you like Chinese or Japanese food, Imperial Gourmet or Yamatani, both on Main Street (395 downtown) will be happy to serve the six of you. None of these restaurants is a “me too” chain type food place. Plan to come fishing with your buddies and test your tastebuds in Bishop!

  12. DESCO January 26, 2014 at 7:58 pm #

    Correction, Whiskey Creek had good food, a long time ago. When I was a skier from Socal in the late 70’s and early 80’s it was the place to be. When I lived in Mammoth in the first part of the current century it was still a pretty good place to hang out. When Greg took over I was part of the “Happy Hour” bar crowd that got to test the new menu. Pretty good stuff.
    I have lived in Bishop for almost ten years now. I and my friends quit going to WC about five years ago. The staff are a bunch of order takers. Unaware of the meaning of some of the words on the menu and clueless about preparation methods. Questions prompted trips to the kitchen to try and glean answers from people who new less about about what they were doing than the servers.
    I was in the Bishop WC just before Xmas. It was worse than ever. The whopping and hollering and raucous laughter coming out of the kitchen indicated a total lack of anyone in charge. Veggies were raw, prime rib overcooked and fatty. Service terrible. The inmates were running the asylum
    This place needed Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares, Bar Rescue and all the other shows combined.

  13. Mr. Pickles January 26, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

    Should of called in “Restaurant Impossible” and maybe they would of had a chance. So sad to see them go.

  14. ferdinand lopez January 26, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

    will a gondola fit into whiskey creek?

  15. Yaney LA MacIver January 25, 2014 at 8:37 pm #

    Well, I wonder if this is sign of the demise of a tourist economy in the OV? And heck no on the chains! 100 folks that’s a huge hit in an area with such a small population.

    I remember the Copper Kettle and even the Kittie Lee Inn so am very sad to see this happen.

  16. enoughalready January 25, 2014 at 7:45 pm #

    There are some fine memories of some fun nights at Whiskey Creek in Mmth. Some fuzzy memories too. Like Rafters it was the hot spot for a while. Those days are past and time to move on.
    Both locations peaked a while back with a long downward run-out. If the quality had been there they would still be open. Over priced with an underwhelming product and inconsistant service. High over head with a low customer base. Something had to give.
    These days with information flowing freely and quickly its no longer just word of mouth or local favorites. Yelp and like sites can make or break a place with good or bad reviews. (Only 3 and half stars last I checked on Yelp for the Bishop location).
    You can blame the economy or the weather if you like. Had the quality been there so would have the customers.
    I wish the employees the best of luck and a speedy recovery as well as Greg and his family. If they do re-open the Bishop site, I hope they have a better business plan than the last one.

    • Ken Warner January 26, 2014 at 10:35 am #

      I ate at Whiskey Creek only once in the last 15 years. Breakfast. It was put on my table with the eggs and potatoes cold after a long wait. It was more expensive than a dozen eggs; a loaf of bread; pound of bacon at Vons.

      I never went back.

      I think people want reasonable food cheap. Nobody has the money for expensive meals. Nobody has the time to sit and wait for service. That’s why the “chains” stay open. That’s why drive through windows are always crowded.

      People on the road — tourists — aren’t stupid. They know what they get for their money. Only the rich people can afford sit down dinners with table cloths.

      There’s been posts describing really good food and memories at Whiskey Creek. How much did it cost? Probably more than a week’s groceries.

      Times have changed. The average person doesn’t have the money for frivolous luxury. The future is street vendors for you and me — tablecloths for the richies.

      • Trouble January 26, 2014 at 10:09 pm #

        I think your half correct Ken. Your correct about there prices, but I would be surprised if the Bishop location isn’t open again real soon. Every tourist going to Mammoth and Yosemite has to drive thru this tourist trap. And Whiskey has close to the prefect location for this town of mule heads.

      • Uncle Tom February 1, 2014 at 4:18 pm #

        Ken, if the future is steet vendors, then count me out.

      • familygal February 1, 2014 at 9:34 pm #

        Ken- you sound like such an unhappy person. i wish for you lots of encouraging and loving friends. it’s gonna be okay – i promise – everything is going to work out okay. but being negative and without hope will not get you to the good stuff in life. be grateful for what you do have and maybe more wonderful things in life will open up for you?

        • Ken Warner February 1, 2014 at 10:55 pm #

          Pray for me and light a candle…

  17. butterbreadt January 25, 2014 at 5:22 pm #

    I see a “marijuana Pot-Shop” in Bishop’s future 🙂

    • Trouble January 25, 2014 at 11:00 pm #

      Butterbreadt- I see all the Nancy Reagan Reaganites rolling in their graves right now. Just say no. Luv Ya!

  18. Jason Bauerfield January 25, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

    Whiskey Creek had a great smoked salmon spinach fettuccine in a creamy Alfredo sauce. I even smoked my own salmon and copied it (don’t forget the capers!). They took it off the menu several years ago, for some reason.

    Benett, I admire and appreciate your work. Your motto regarding the power of the press is a bit over-the-top to me, but it’s your news service, and the best one we’ve got.


  19. Tinner January 25, 2014 at 10:10 am #

    Whiskey Creek in Mammoth hasn’t been the same since Daniella left to back home to Brazil, not only was she an outstanding waitress but easy to look at too.

    What are the cops gonna do now at 2 am?

    • JP January 27, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

      Exactly. No more sitting around on their fat keister looking for people to harass. Next stop: Mammoth Brew Co!

  20. Charles O. Jones January 25, 2014 at 8:36 am #

    Sorry to read of the demise of both Whiskey Creeks. It looks like the location will continue with the brewery in Mammoth. I hope something similar will occur at the Bishop location.

    Best of luck in the future to the owner and all the displaced employees.

  21. Jason Bauerfield January 24, 2014 at 11:37 pm #

    Thanks for the explanation, Benett. And I appreciate your being forthright in defending your belief.

    But it still rubs me the wrong way; it come across as an arrogant way of thinking for modern media.

    “The newspaper does everything for us. It runs the police force and the banks, commands the militia, controls the legislature, baptizes the young, marries the foolish, comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable, buries the dead, and roasts them afterward.”

    • Benett Kessler January 25, 2014 at 10:13 am #

      You won’t be the first person I’ve rubbed the wrong way.

    • tbone February 2, 2014 at 9:39 am #

      Yes, Jason, I’m sure that motto smacks of class warfare, which FoxNews is currently focusing their corporate-controlled lens on. I’m sure you prefer something more ominously orwellian, perhaps “we report, you decide”?

  22. So sad January 24, 2014 at 11:00 pm #

    So long flat iron steak and bloody Mary’s you will be missed.

  23. Jason Bauerfield January 24, 2014 at 10:20 pm #

    “Comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.”

    Bennett, I don’t think that is a very good motto for a responsible journalist/reporter. It comes across as simplistic and rubs me, at least, the wrong way.


    (of a problem or illness) cause pain or suffering to; affect or trouble.
    “serious ills afflict the industry”
    synonyms: trouble, burden, distress, cause suffering to, beset, harass, worry, oppress; More

    • Benett Kessler January 24, 2014 at 10:56 pm #

      Humorist Finley Peter Dunne (early 1900s) coined the phrase. “The newspaper does everything for us. It runs the police force and the banks, commands the militia, controls the legislature, baptizes the young, marries the foolish, comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable, buries the dead, and roasts them afterward.” Many news people have since used it to show that they are willing to speak truth to power, protect those in society who have no protectors and gouge the arrogant who have no conscience. I stand by that phrase.
      Benett Kessler

  24. Jason Bauerfield January 24, 2014 at 10:00 pm #

    The WC model is out-dated – very high overhead, etc.

    The best food in places like Thailand and Mexico is from street vendors – green curries with shrimp, crispy carnitas tacos, etc. I have noticed an increase in street vendors, in Bishop, and am planning my own food business based on this sustainable model.

    • sugar magnolia January 25, 2014 at 6:42 pm #

      kinda hard to sit with friends and have a drink and an appetizer at the street vendors!

  25. LeonD January 24, 2014 at 6:50 pm #

    Obamacare was probably another factor.

    • JC January 25, 2014 at 11:24 am #


      • LeonD January 27, 2014 at 12:47 am #

        How? Any full time employees would fall under the employer mandate…with two WC restaurants costing tens of thousands to insure. Eating away at the bottom line. Why to you think Target, Wallmat, Costco all are blowing off their employees to part time? Wake up its a disaster

  26. I Love To Fish January 24, 2014 at 5:07 pm #

    Tourist Business Improvement District TAX Claims is first victim….

    • sugar magnolia January 24, 2014 at 11:07 pm #

      Sad all the way around…sad for the Alexanders, sad for the employees and sad for the people of bishop and mammoth. WC had really good food!

  27. Steve January 24, 2014 at 3:58 pm #

    This is really sad, you never want to see any business go. The business climate is getting harder by more fees/taxes, higher minimum wage and the cost of food which keeps going up every month. I hope things will work out and Whiskey Creek to make a come back in the future.

    • Ken Warner January 24, 2014 at 8:02 pm #

      Yes, most certainly — it’s the cost of labor. I can’t understand how any California business can stay solvent paying wages to it’s workers. What we really need to turn this economy around is to legalize slave labor again. And when a slave gets too old or sick to work, drive them to Death Valley and set them free.

      Of course, that will never bring back Whiskey Creek. That’s gone forever. But those workers can always work at McDonald’s. The foods better there anyway. Don’t know how those kind of places keep bringing in the business….

      • Tom O January 25, 2014 at 9:53 am #

        Coming from someone who apparently does not under stand econ 101. Still firing blanks at the TV when CSI is on Ken?

        • Desert Tortoise January 27, 2014 at 3:26 pm #

          Some quotes from Adam Smith, one of the founding intellects of market capitalism:

          “Our merchants and master-manufacturers complain much of the bad effects of high wages in raising the price, and thereby lessening the sale of their goods both at home and abroad. They say nothing concerning the bad effects of high profits. They are silent with regard to the pernicious effects of their own gains. They complain only of those of other people.”

          “This disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and powerful, and to despise or, at least, neglect persons of poor and mean conditions, though necessary both to establish and to maintain the distinction of ranks and the order of society, is, at the same time, the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments.”

          “Labour was the first price, the original purchase-money that was paid for all things. It was not by gold or by silver, but by labour, that all the wealth of the world was originally purchased; and its value, to those who possess it, and who want to exchange it for some new productions, is precisely equal to the quantity of labour which it can enable them to purchase or command.”

          “No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the greater part of the members are poor and miserable. It is but equity, besides, that they who feed, cloath and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labour as to be themselves tolerably well fed, clothed, and lodged. ”

      • JC January 25, 2014 at 11:24 am #

        It’s the drugs in the food that keep packing them in.

      • JP January 27, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

        Wow. Ken is really on it! You guys got more like him up there? I hope he’s not a gun owner

  28. John Barton January 24, 2014 at 3:27 pm #

    I’m sorry to hear this. WC has been a landmark for so long. I have fond memories of meeting friends and family there for a meal or drink for past 20 plus years. I think what would thrive in Bishop for years to come, rain or shine, snow or no snow would be a Applebees, Olive Garden, Chilis etc.

    • I Love To Fish January 25, 2014 at 12:14 pm #

      I totally see an Applebee’s in Bishop

    • Tina January 25, 2014 at 4:27 pm #

      I guess all the thumbs down are employee-trolls of other restaurants who are happy to see WC gone and don’t welcome any competition. Another chain other than Dennys would be great that offers decent meals at an affordable price.

    • brian January 25, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

      Trader Joes and an Applebees would make Bishop a much nicer place.

    • sugar magnolia January 25, 2014 at 6:48 pm #

      Whiskey Creek was much better than any of those places. I recently ate at an Olive Garden and I ordered a dish similar to the steak fettucine at WC, WC’s version totally blew the Olive Garden version away..no comparison. Best we can hope for is WC comes back revamped!


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