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Exploring a Century-Old Classic Western Bar

 Q&A with Pioneer Saloon

If you haven’t discovered it yet, add it to your must-see list. A Nevada historical landmark, the Pioneer Saloon was established in 1913. The taste and feel of this piece of classic western history can be found in the town of Goodsprings, Nevada, a former mining town just south of Las Vegas. Featured in movies, music videos, television shows, and even video games, the saloon attracts locals, tourists, motorcyclists, and adventurers. And with food, drinks, live music, and more than a hundred years of stories and characters, this is the perfect place to explore. So, strap on your chaps and spurs and head to the Pioneer Saloon.

Stephen “Old Man Liver” Staats

Owner, Pioneer Saloon

Stephen Staats is a musician and serial entrepreneur. He acquired the nickname “Old Man Liver” after several product releases under the same brand name that features his own likeness, including alcohol (Old Man Liver American Whiskey), hot sauce (Old Man Liver’s Yummy As F**k Sauce), a book (What My Dad Taught Me), and seasoning mix (Old Man Liver’s Red Menace).

Tell us about the history of Pioneer Saloon.

The Pioneer Saloon was built by George Fayle in 1913 using a prefabricated kit that includes the exterior and interior walls and ceilings made of stamped tin that can still be found in the Saloon to this day. The business survived the prohibition, multiple recessions, two world wars, and two pandemics (Spanish Flu and Covid-19). The cherry wood bar inside the Saloon was built by Brunswick in Maine in the late 1800s. It was shipped around South America since there was no Panama Canal back then and eventually made its way to Goodsprings via San Francisco, California, and Rhyolite, Nevada.

Describe what someone will experience when they arrive.

After taking the Jean exit off the 15 freeway and driving the rural highway, one might feel like they were tricked into driving out to nothing in the middle of nowhere. But only five minutes in, after passing a hill into the small town of Goodsprings, population 200, the Pioneer Saloon appears out of nowhere, and one feels transformed back into the wild west days. The Saloon looks like it’s straight out of a western movie, and the surrounding lot is still dirt, seemingly untouched by urban landscaping and modern construction. One can park in the back unless you have a horse or motorcycle … in this case, you are entitled to park in the front “hogs & horses parking only” area. Once entering the property, you may notice an eclectic mix of people — bikers, families, businesspeople, artists, etc. Still, everyone is there for the purpose of enjoying each other’s company and the magic of the property. The smell of bacon and grilling permeates the air as one walks the outdoor seating area near the Saloon’s famous outdoor grilling deck. Once inside the Saloon itself, one can experience history as the original cash register still lines the wall along with several antiques from the era. In the dining room, you can read about the tragic accident that took the life of the famous actress Carole Lombard in 1942. She died in a plane crash at nearby Mt. Potosi. Her Husband, Clark Gable, had come to Goodsprings to await word of her fate. Because of the remoteness of the crash site, it took rescuers several days to reach the site and determine the fate of everyone on board. A piece of the plane is displayed on one of the walls in the dining room.

What is this we hear about bullet holes?

Many people believe the three bullet holes near the western-facing door of the Saloon were from a poker game in 1915 where a patron was shot and killed. The patron was a belligerent, out-of-work minor named Paul Coski, and the person who caught him cheating and shot him was the dealer, Joe Armstrong. We have the newspaper headline and coroner’s report on display at the Saloon. It is the Saloon’s only confirmed murder on the premises and thus a topic of focus with paranormal investigations and paranormal-themed TV shows, like Ghost Adventures.

Who are some of the famous people who have walked through the saloon’s doors?

Chris Angel, Johnny Depp, Randy Couture, Rick Harrison, Jamie Kennedy, Cheech Marin & Tommy Chong, Clark Gable, Oscar Goodman

We hear you make your own whiskey. Is it for the faint of heart?

I started making my own Whiskey a couple of years ago. I call it Old Man Liver American Whiskey. I wanted something that was okay, smoky, and a little spicy. I also wanted it stronger — 90 proof — so I could brag that it’s stronger than Jim Beam or Jack Daniels but still smooth going down and tasty to sip.

What video game was Pioneer Saloon featured in?

Fallout: New Vegas is a popular action, role-playing video game that takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting in the Las Vegas area. The Pioneer Saloon, nearby Goodsprings General Store, and the town of Goodsprings, are featured. They even based some of the game’s characters on our employees. So, gamers walk in, see our maintenance director, Gordi, and yell, “Easy Pete!” Even our dear friend who performs and books our bands at the Pioneer, Monica, is also the head of the Goodsprings’ County Advisory Council, the closest thing to a mayor in Goodsprings. Ironically, with life imitating art, the character, “Trudy the Bartender,” was based on her and was also the town mayor in the game.

What final thoughts would you like our readers to know?

For breakfast items and our Hangover burger that includes a fried egg, we now give customers the option to upgrade to fresh, farm-to-table, organic eggs from local, pasture-raised chickens for $2 more. I own a mini farm down the street from the Saloon, and we got approval to carry the eggs at the Pioneer. So, my ten spoiled hens have been working hard to provide these tasty eggs with rich yolks. Our rooster, Picasso, takes care of the hens. [Laughs] I figure it doesn’t get any more fresh than from down the street, and this is something unique to our rural setting.

Outdoor seating is available for all ages and is dog friendly. However, inside the Saloon, it is 21 and over only. The Pioneer Saloon is open at 9:00 a.m., seven days a week. The restaurant is open until 8:00 p.m. on weekdays and 11:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, with the Saloon staying open at least an hour later on most evenings.

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