Former sports bar owner’s death shocks and saddens loyal customers
He was the type of guy who’d play blackjack with customers, pay for a cab ride home if someone couldn’t afford it, and write a letter of recommendation for former employees.
He’s been described as iconic, caring, well known and respected. As longtime customer Erik Chaney put it, "He was such a homie."
Balwant Bisla, who went simply by Bob, was the former owner of Bisla’s sports bar at 7042 Folsom Boulevard. He recently sold the bar, and died Friday around midnight at the age of 42. The Sacramento Coroner’s Office said the cause of death had yet to be determined, pending an autopsy.
News of his death spread quickly among the bar’s loyal customer base, and on Friday afternoon, people were showing up to the business to pay their respects.
"We could not be more shocked," said Chaney, a Sacramento State University graduate, who’s been coming to Bisla’s since 2010. "We’d buy drinks back and forth, even though he was the owner."
Bisla’s was voted "Best Sports Bar" by KCRA 3 in 2011/2012, and is a popular watering hole among the college crowd.
"Icon is the wrong word," Chaney said. "But he was very well known, respected and an all around great fuc*ing guy."
Chaney and his friend Mike Nguyn showed up to Bisla’s in hopes of paying homage to Bob by grabbing a drink. However the front doors were locked, and a sign hanged on the glass door saying "Due to a family emergency Bisla’s will be closed until Saturday."
Both were at a loss for words. "I’m fazed right now," Nguyn said. "It’s disheartening – I wanna know why."
Chaney said he’s not sure how he’ll feel about coming back to a place with so many memories. "It will be different seeing his name and knowing he’s not around," he said.
While Chaney and Nguyn were reminiscing in the parking lot, another longtime customer and former employee walked up to them and asked what was going on.
"I’m just trying to drink for him, bro," Nguyn said.
"Let’s do it," said Eli Nagle. The three young men chatted and shared a cigarette before eventually making their way into the bar through a back entrance.
Nagle was a server at Bisla’s and later went on to do promotions. A hotel management major at Sacramento State, he considered Bob Bisla a mentor.
"His biggest thing was pay attention to detail," Nagle said. "He made sure customers were happy."
Bob Bisla recently wrote Nagle a letter of recommendation, and gave him a books. "He taught me so much, I’m so emotional right now, and I don’t get emotional," Nagle said.
“He inspired everyone around him,” he said.