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Iconic Chope's bar in the Mesilla Valley gets a makeover

Chopes Bar in La Mesa, New Mexico (KFOX14)

The dictionary defines a road house as a "tavern, inn or club on a country road."

That's a pretty accurate description of Chopes Bar, located on Highway 28 in the small town of La Mesa, New Mexico.

“The bar’s been here for ages,” said Ralph Lucero, who helps run the bar.

The bar recently got a minor makeover.

“There were some things that we just felt as a family needed an upgrade," said Lucero. "We did this for the customers. We wanted to make sure we gave it a saloon look. A family look. But to celebrate with all of our clients here.”

Lucero is talking specifically about a face lift to the back of the bar. As a result, the bar was closed for several weeks. But on Tuesday, Chope's was back in business.

“We’re probably the most popular bar in the Valley," he said. "We’ve been here forever. People have met people here. People have found their first love here. It's an institution."

Lucero says the family was sensitive to the fact that the regulars love Chope's specifically because it hasn't changed much since it was first established more than a century ago.

"That was the biggest challenge is making sure we didn’t lose the charm," he said. "You know social media, you get a lot of feedback. Nobody wants to lose the old.”

There's nothing fancy about Chopes. The bar is small and seating is limited. But it's got that undefinable charm - that special something that creates a lasting bond with customers.

“It’s a great place to check out," said longtime customer Bob Schunior. "Especially if you’ve never been here. The history that’s involved. If you can learn the history on the way up, whether you’re coming from El Paso or Las Cruces.”

The bar is connected to the equally famous restaurant next door. That means you can eat some of the cafe's legendary Mexican food in the bar

Two years ago, Chope's Town Cafe and Bar was listed on the National Register of Historic places. A rare distinction for a bar/restaurant. And as the memories of the late founders Chope and Lupe Benavidez hold strong, the next generation continues to keep their legacy alive.

“Everybody from New Mexico State, UTEP, you get generations that come back, so people want to come back and have that feel for years," Lucero said. "Bring friends from out of town. We just want to make sure they have a great experience.”

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