Oldest Bars and Saloons in Arizona

Tucson’s legendary Buffet Bar will celebrate its 80th anniversary on Nov. 1. As the oldest bar in the city, it’s still clinging to its reputation as a UA hangout.

But The Buffet’s 80 years makes it a teenager alongside the state’s granddaddy of historic bars, Prescott’s Palace Restaurant & Saloon. From Tombstone to Jerome, Arizona has bars and saloons that predate statehood and beyond.

Some of those bars have been rebuilt after fires while others stand as straight as they did when they were first built. But every crack, splinter and nail tells a story in these Arizona landmarks. Here are a few of them.


In 1880, The Palace was destroyed by the Whiskey Row fire, but patrons saved the original Brunswick Bar by carrying it out. The original bar is still in use today.  (Courtesy, The Palace Restaurant & Saloon)
In 1880, The Palace was destroyed by the Whiskey Row fire, but patrons saved the original Brunswick Bar by carrying it out. The original bar is still in use today.
Photo courtesy of The Palace Restaurant & Saloon.

Palace Restaurant & Saloon – 1877
120 S. Montezuma St., Prescott, AZ 86303
(928) 541-1996
www.historicpalace.com

When its doors opened in September 1877, The Palace Restaurant & Saloon was much more than just a “watering hole.” It served as election central for several local political races and the place where men gathered to check for job notices. Mineral claims could be brought in and sold over the bar, according to the website.

On July 14, 1900, the bar caught fire in the famous Whiskey Row blaze. Patrons carried the original 1880s Brunswick bar top to safety in a nearby plaza. When The Palace was remodeled after the fire, they resurrected the bar, which is still in use today.

The only other major remodel was in 1996, said the office manager Hillary Joyner. Office Manager for The Palace.

“It took a lot to get the kitchen back to how it was,” she said.

Among the historic footnotes and notable residents: Doc Holliday took up residence at the saloon in the late 1870s after going on a poker winning streak. President Theodore Roosevelt stopped in in 1907 when he was in Prescott commissioning the Bucky O’Neil statue. O’Neil, a captain in the Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, died in battle.


Crystal Palace Saloon – 1879
436 East Allen St., Tombstone, AZ 85638
(520) 457-3611
www.crystalpalacesaloon.com

The Crystal Palace Saloon opened in 1879 as the Golden Eagle Brewing Company, one of Tombstone’s first saloons. Two years later, the bar was damaged in the July 22, 1881, fire that blazed through much of the Old West town. The Golden Eagle escaped relatively unscathed but wasn’t so lucky the following year when another fire swept through and completely destroyed the bar. It was quickly rebuilt and renamed The Crystal Palace Saloon.


The Drift Inn Saloon when it first opened back in the early 1900s (Courtesy, The Drift Inn Saloon)
The Drift Inn Saloon when it first opened back in the early 1900s (Courtesy, The Drift Inn Saloon)

Drift Inn Saloon – 1902
636 N. Broad St., Globe, AZ 85501
928-425-9573
www.driftinnsaloon.com

The Drift Inn Saloon opened in 1902 and has remained open since. The only thing that has changed has been the name. The saloon has a reputation as being haunted including by an old man and a girl who occupies the space that used to be a brothel.

“The ghosts, they were either customers or workers here,” said Barbara Loy, a bartender.

Loy has been going to the Drift Inn since she was 19, and has been working there for about 20 years.

The Drift Inn Saloon is most famous for its Bloody Marys, but they still “have your bourbon, your whiskey, all the drinks. We’re a full bar,” Loy said.


St Elmo Bar – 1902
36 Brewery Ave., Bisbee, AZ 85603
(520) 432-5578

St. Elmo Bar in Bisbee opened in 1902 and is the longest, continuously operating bar in the state.  St. Elmo Bar had a brothel upstairs and the bar downstairs. It also shared ghost stories with neighboring Bisbee hotels and restaurants.


Tucson's oldest bar, The Buffet, opened in 1934 (Courtesy, The Buffet)
Tucson’s oldest bar, The Buffet, opened in 1934 (Courtesy, The Buffet)

The Buffet – 1934
538 E. 9th St., Tucson, AZ, 85705
(520) 623-6811
www.thebuffetbar.com

Located in Tucson’s historic Ironhorse neighborhood, The Buffet sits just as tall as it did when it opened on Nov. 1, 1934, just after the repeal of prohibition.

The Buffet is known for heating hot dogs in a coffee pot and serving pickled eggs as bar food.

 

 

Malcolm Fuller is a reporter at Arizona Sonora News, a service from the University of Arizona. Reach him at malcolmfuller@email.arizona.edu or follow him on Twitter at @malcolmfuller.

 

 

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