Rookies sports bar at Incline for sale; Legacy to pass on
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nevada — It was announced in late February that after 29 years, the Rookies Sports Bar and Grill was sold.
The spot, which opened in 1993, has served not only as a place to grab a bite to eat or enjoy a beer after work, but also as a mainstay of the Incline Village community.
Rookies, Inc. was founded by Serge Rigisich and John “JB” Brennan, who both sadly passed away, and now current President Shelly Rigisich is poised to carry on the Rookies legacy.
The company is currently negotiating with potential buyers, and Rigisich explained that many interested people are local members of the community. She, along with 14-year-old Rookies bartender Eazy Hernandez, hopes whoever acquires the restaurant will continue to do so at home.
“Hopefully for the next 30 years they will provide the same kind of community connections and fun times,” Rigisich said.
Hernandez worked side-by-side with Serge Rigisich when he started at Rookies, and was able to not only experience the joy of working with someone who loved giving back to the community, but creating a place everyone can call home. .
“It’s not just a restaurant,” Hernandez said. “It’s a staple in this community.”
Prior to his passing, Serge Rigisich was someone who was heavily involved in his community, donating to schools with meals, participating in community events, and always giving people a place to go when they had no other place.
“He moved here and really got involved,” Hernandez said. “He took care of everyone who came to work for him and he took care of us and treated us like family. There was such a sense of community among the people here at Rookies. I think of every year on Thanksgiving when they did Thanksgiving dinner, and everybody that didn’t have a place to go, that’s when they came in and they were offered Thanksgiving dinner and they were like a family.
Hernandez explained that before his passing, Serge Rigisich would attend and donate to events dedicated to education, such as the Haunted Hallway event hosted by the University of Sierra Nevada and the Incline Village General Improvement District. , Toys for Tots, and would donate to Crab Food.
“It was really about wanting everyone who wanted to go to school to get an education and support it one hundred percent,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez explained that Serge cared about people in the community, even if he didn’t know them, and constantly donated for people’s medical bills and GoFund Me when they were going through tough times. Hernandez recalled a friend of his who was hit by a vehicle, which Serge donated after hearing about the accident.
“So it’s just not the big places that he’s acknowledged donating to schools or animal foundations, but it’s spent on single people in the community to try and help out. Everyone goes through tough times and accidents happen,” Hernandez said. “Everyone has those rainy days and Rookies has always been that umbrella, keeping the rain out of your eyes.”
When Rookies remained open 24 hours a day, Hernandez explained that coming to work never bothered him, because it was a place he loved so much.
“It just feels in the heart,” Hernandez said. “It’s not work when you love your job.”
Hernandez is determined to carry on the legacy of his former boss and friend. During the Caldor Fire, Hernandez took it upon herself to cook meals and donate them to first responders.
“On his own, at first he was cooking 120 meals,” Shelly said. “And then the community came out and started donating money and food. We got passes so we could walk through the blockade down to the fire, and for two weeks that is all we have done; prepare meals for them.
Now that Rookies is up for sale, Shelly and Hernandez hope the next one can carry on the legacy left by Rookies. Currently, the re-executed lease for the property has almost nine years of remaining term, with two additional five-year options, which would see the Rookies remain at its current location until 2040.
Hernandez is hopeful for the future, given the impact the Rookies have in the small community.
Hernandez said, “There’s not a story that happens in Incline Village without mentioning, ‘And then we went to the rookies’ or ‘We left for the rookies’ in any story.”
Miranda Jacobson is a staff writer for the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication to the Sierra Sun