What are the three oldest continuously operating bars in Utah? Technically, that depends on what you define as a bar.
If you define a bar as a building where at least some alcohol is served to the general public, the oldest in the state is the Shooting Star Saloon, according to archived news articles, though it’s technically a tavern (beer only).
The next oldest is The Confectionary, a tavern in Plain City. And, if you include buildings where liquor and beer are both served, the next oldest is Bunny’s Club, a bar in Coalville.
No matter the criteria, these three drinking establishments are among Utah’s oldest, The Salt Lake Tribune determined. But finding that record was surprisingly tough.
Shooting Star Saloon
In 1990, a Salt Lake Tribune staff writer who visited the Shooting Star Saloon wrote, “From the Saint Bernard head mounted on the wall to the dollar bills stuck to the ceiling, the tables that were once used by monks at the nearby monastery, the hand-scrawled messages on the bathroom ceilings and walls, the Shooting Star is full of history.”
It hasn’t changed much since, said current owner Leslie Sutter — right down to the ghosts.
“Oh yeah, we’re haunted,” said Sutter, who works the bar and the grill. Everyone who’s worked at the saloon has had a spooky experience, she said, and when anything weird happens, they just blame the restless spirits.
How could a place that’s been open since 1879 not be haunted, anyway?
The Shooting Star, billed as the oldest continuously operating saloon west of the Mississippi, is known for its cold beer and juicy burgers. And if you ask them to leave off the onions, you’ll be told to pick them off yourself — no whining allowed.
There has been one tiny change to the place since the 1990s: Patrons can’t add any more dollar bills to the saloon’s ceiling; Sutter said their insurance agent didn’t like them putting pieces of paper up there.
All these quirks add to the Shooting Star’s authenticity, Sutter said, which is why people come from as far away as New York and Germany to visit.
“Stuff isn’t put up on the walls as decoration. It’s authentic,” Sutter said. “And it represents [the Shooting Star’s] history and how long it’s been in existence.”
Andrea Hewson, owner of Bunny’s Club in Coalville, says one man’s recollection is proof that Bunny’s has been open since at least 1939.
About five or six years ago, the story goes, that man came into Bunny’s to celebrate his 100th birthday. He told Hewson and the other bar staff that he’d visited Bunny’s in 1942, when he was a teenager about to go off to war. Back then, the man remembered that Bunny’s Club had been around a few years earlier, since about 1939.
“That’s the first real person I’ve been able to get that answer from, that was still alive,” Hewson told The Tribune.
Founded by Kenneth “Bunny” Downs, Bunny’s Club has been owned by Hewson since 2001. She said that it’s “more than a bar,” where visitors can “come and be included.”
They come to Bunny’s Club for “brotherhood,” not just drinking, Hewson said — as well as the many celebrations the bar has hosted, including birthday parties and wedding receptions.
The bar even recently served as a filming location for the TV series “Yellowstone,” Hewson said, appearing in two episodes of the neo-Western drama’s third season. A stage built for the scenes was kept after filming wrapped, she said. Bands now perform on it.
Awhile back, the bar was actually on the market for about a year, but Hewson ultimately took it off. “We decided we’d wait and see what happens next,” she said. The bar may potentially be put on the market again, but until then, it’s business as usual.
“Time here stands still for us,” Hewson said.
Over the decades, this bar in Plain City has had a few different names, including the Pool Hall and the Grog Hall, according to Plain City’s website. But the one that has stuck is The Confectionary, because its first owner thought of the beer-only bar as a “candy store for adults,” said manager Jenna Keefer.
Built sometime in the early 1900s, The Confectionary is one of the buildings that was part of Plain City’s original town square, Keefer said. “And it’s been a pretty well-kept secret. Now we’re starting to get some more new people out here. But for the longest time, nobody even knew this existed.”
Current owner Randy Marriott remodeled The Confectionary about 12 years ago, Keefer said, keeping the original sign and shuffleboard, which people still play, along with pool.
The bar’s busiest nights are during the rodeo. And although The Confectionary is usually open Wednesday through Saturday, the bar opens for Monday Night Football.
For years, Thursdays have always been steak and shrimp night. In the 1960s, people would call The Confectionary on Thursdays to put their name down for a steak. “And once the steaks were gone, that was it,” Keefer said.
The bar is still known for its food, Keefer said, with a menu that includes country-fried steak, prime rib, halibut, ribs, “all the burgers” and Philly cheesesteaks. “Our food is amazing,” she said.
One patron, Shannon Fox, told The Tribune that “I’ve been coming here since I was 3 years old. … We all grew up coming here, or having some kind of sense of community outside of the church.”
Journey to find Utah’s oldest bar
When The Tribune set out to identify Utah’s three oldest bars, the first stop was the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Services (DABS), which ran a report with our criteria.
The task was a lift, Michelle Schmitt, communications director for DABS, said, because “we do not maintain historical data.”
“Our role is to oversee existing license holders,” she continued, “to ensure that they are maintaining their license under the laws and regulations.”
Licenses that had previously been transferred to a new owner also made it tricky, she said, as well as the fact that DABS is still updating its system from the days of paper.
Still, that first report came back with a batch of bars — but they were all located in country clubs, fraternal orders and exclusive ski resort hotels.
After an adjusted request, specifically seeking out standalone watering holes that the general public could access, the next report from DABS looked more promising.
The list included Dar’s in Ogden (opened in 1961, according to a bartender); Black Jacks in Spanish Fork (opened in the 1950s, according to the owner); and Historic Place in Ogden (opened in the early ’60s, according to the owner).
There was also Bunny’s Club, which owner Andrea Hewson said had been open since at least 1939. Jackpot.
That list only included bars, though — not taverns, a distinction that the average patron likely doesn’t consider when meandering in for a drink. So we asked for a third batch of records, and got a list of 10 more establishments.
Two stood out as the oldest: the Shooting Star Saloon, which opened in 1879 in Huntsville; and The Confectionary in Plain City, straight west from North Ogden, which opened in “the early 1900s.”
Along with Bunny’s Club, and several phone calls to confirm, we had our three.
Editor’s note • This story is available to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers only. Thank you for supporting local journalism.
Correction • March 25, 12:35 p.m.: The story has been updated to correct the year range in which The Confectionary opened.