Monday, September 25, 2023
End of an Era for the Iconic East Mountain Tavern

Molly' Last Dance


For seventy-one years, there has been one place at the top of most locals’ lists of where a person could drop in for a drink in Tijeras — Molly’s Bar, where else? — but now, after the death of its longtime owner, that storied local bar has announced its final closure.

On this final night, however, the bar’s parking lot was full, and then some, with long lines of cars bordering both sides of the road.

Longtime patrons sidled up to the East Mountain icon for one last toast at the bar whose days can be counted in decades.

Though the freeway was not yet there when the bar was first opened, Molly’s has long sat just north of I-40, in Tijeras, in the Sandia Mountains along NM 14, visible to anyone driving up into Cedar Crest, on the right, framed by a dirt lot and shaded by trees while looking not unlike a repurposed one-story house, behind its iconic sign with its primary name spelled out in bold, brightly lit cursive.

Molly, of the bar’s name, was Amalia “Molly” Simballa, who had previously owned two establishments around Albuquerque, and who founded Molly’s Bar, about 1952. (The last-ever Molly’s t-shirt reads, “est. 1950s;” date-keeping being a little-less exact several decades ago.)

Simballa also served as a local Justice of the Peace, and was an important local figure in the Tijeras community, remembered fondly by many people. She babysat a very young future-senator Pete Domenici; collected necessary hygiene products for area young women; and helped friends immigrate here from Italy, including the Guelfi family who founded long-lasting area restaurant Bella Vista.

Also in the 1950s, author Edward Abbey, living in Tijeras, was sometimes a patron.

In the 1950s and ‘60s, bar patrons would sometimes gather out back and place bets on how long earthen dams made by a bulldozer would last across a flooding arroyo.

In the 1970s, when the freeway was under construction, Molly’s Bar was the most-popular area bar for the freeway’s many builders.

In the 1980s, live music thrived there.

In the 1990s, locals sometimes noted that the bar was the last thing seen that was at all lit up when heading at night up toward Cedar Crest or Sandia Park.

And up until the present, Molly’s has been a great place for anyone wishing to stop and enjoy a drink, and/or a game of billiards, and/or live music, with the Tijeras community.

On Aug. 30, however, the death of Dianne DiLallo, daughter-in-law of the original Molly, was announced; and this last Wednesday night, Molly’s Bar hosted its last night open, an evening of celebration and remembrance, with an accompanying art show.

The mood was somber but jolly, with many people happily dancing to recorded music (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Last Dance with Mary Jane,” was one perhaps-fitting song choice), hugging one another, and reminiscing about the bar’s place in their lives, none of which would go on record, one said, “out of respect.”

In the darkness out-front, as the evening progressed, more-than-one faceless-in-the-dark voice could be heard yelling, “Molly’s forever!”

And, “Molly’s forever!” another voice yelled back. “Molly’s forever!” “Molly’s forever!” “Molly’s forever.”


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