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Venue Spotlight | Riley's Tavern

Riley’s Tavern in Hunter, Texas is nestled perfectly between the long-celebrated Texas Country music scenes in New Braunfels and San Marcos. Riley’s was the first bar to open in Texas after the prohibition, when in September of 1933, seventeen-year-old J.C. (James Curtis) Riley camped out on the steps of the Capital building in Austin to obtain a beer license for his soon-to-be beer joint. J.C. Riley was the very first person to receive a beer license after the thirteen-year ban on the sales of alcohol.


Riley saw Hunter grow into a "boom town" with cotton farmers to the east and cattle ranchers to the west. The Missouri-Pacific Railroad decided to build a stop in Hunter because of the water supply in York Creek. When the farmers and ranchers heard of this, they talked the railroad into building a dock to load their cotton and cattle on and soon, the small town was bustling with business. When Riley’s opened its doors just yards away from the railroad , it became an instant success. There were people in the street and loaded beer wagons arriving daily at Riley's Tavern.


Fast forward more than 90 years later, and Riley’s Tavern remains a staple in the Texas bar and live music scene. The current owners, Joel and Angie Hofmann, purchased Riley’s in 2004 and have kept its original legacy alive by carefully preserving its authenticity and character. Riley’s Tavern is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Hill Country Landmark for live music.


A fourth-generation Texan, Joel Hofmann forged his career in the Central Texas music industry not only as a honky-tonk owner, but also a singer-songwriter and live performer with influences from Americana, Roots, and Outlaw Country sounds.


In September 2023, the Joel Hofmann band released its fourth studio album, Gold Rush Town, which was recorded inside Riley’s Tavern. The ten honky-tonk-tested songs on this record resonate like personal dispatches sent straight from the heart of Texas.


Stepping into Riley’s Tavern is a little like stepping back in time. You can feel the history that has taken place within its walls when you walk in the door. The bar tops are covered with newspaper clippings and old photos, there’s hundreds of signatures on the walls marking the bar goers over the years, ashtrays on every table, and framed concert posters from infamous shows that took place at Riley’s Tavern such as Roy Head, Dale Watson, Mo Bandy, Billy Joe Shaver, Johnny Bush, and far too many others to mention.


Riley’s Tavern has two stages that host a variety of musicians every week. Owner Joel Hofmann, who books the music, told TCMM that the music at Riley’s has to be authentic. “My go-to booking is anything that’s real and rootsy. Whether is blues, classic country, rockabilly, singer-songwriter… I’m trying to furnish a place that even if you don’t know whose name is on the marquee that night, you’ll know that they’re going to be entertaining and talented and the atmosphere is going to be great.”


While at Riley’s, TCMM met with a Riley’s regular over a cold Coors Light and Shiner Bock and got to talking about what makes the place so special to him. “It’s easy...authenticity.” As a Navy veteran who has lived in 13 different states, he shared with us what keeps him coming back to Riley’s - “I love it because it’s familiar. It feels like you belong. It’s because of the people. I’ve met so many great people here.”.


You can find out more about Riley’s Tavern’s history and view upcoming shows and events at

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