Serving drinks for more than a century, the weathered watering hole has come to represent a piece of Wild West history. Look carefully and you'll see bullet holes in the wall, said to be from a poker game gone bad. You can also sit at the same counter where Clark Gable frantically stamped out cigars while waiting to hear that his wife, actress Carole Lombard, was indeed killed when a plane crashed into a nearby mountain in 1942.
"If you think about it, the West was the last frontier to be settled on the continent," says owner Noel Sheckells. "The Pioneer Saloon is one of the best preserved relics of that time frame in the United States."
When Sheckells took ownership of the property in 2006, it was rickety and in desperate need of repair. "The first thing we did was take all the tin off the walls and clean out a hundred years’ worth of soot, dead rats and dirt," he remembers. "We reskinned it with plywood and added insulation. Then we put each piece of tin back in place—we had them all numbered."
Since then, the Pioneer Saloon has expanded to include a courtyard, outdoor patio, fire pits, dining room and a kitchen that serves enough steaks, burgers and all-day breakfast scrambles to keep any cowboy—or biker on a desert road trip—happy.
At one point, the Pioneer Saloon offered barbecue grills, on which visitors could cook their own steaks, but demand tapered off as the in-house food menu grew more popular. After the grills were removed in mid-2016, Sheckells wanted something unique to take their place.
"That's where the idea of the whiskey barrels came up," he remembers. "We built a little five-foot section with four barrels and sold them the first weekend. Everybody seemed to want one."
Sheckells had additional racks built—enough to include nearly 100 15-gallon Kentucky barrels—across a 60-foot wall behind the Saloon. Those sold out in about six months and racks for five-gallon barrels were added near the front patio.