Is the Oldest American Bar, West of the Mississippi, in a Rural Mormon Utah?
The Shooting Star Saloon feels like you’ve stepped back in time as you cross the crooked threshold of the 1850 building.
Founded in a town established by Brigham Young’s non-drinking followers, Huntsville, Utah seems an unlikely place for a successful bar. Although many other bars west of the Mississippi were established long before 1879, the Shooting Star Saloon claims, the oldest continuously operating bar in the state – some say the oldest operating west of the Mississippi.
The Shooting Star Saloon even survived 14 years of Prohibition!
The rural bar has never shut down or had to reopen as many others did in the last century. “Back then, word traveled faster than people. They knew when the authorities were coming, so they shut down before they arrived” says current owner Leslie Sutter.
In a bar that only accepts cash and has a coin operated Jukebox there is little to go awry.
As you step inside, the walls and ceilings are absolutely covered with the memorabilia of every era it has endured. An original Jukebox that still plays 45-rpm vinyl records and a late 1800s cash register are still working perfectly.
Each keepsake has an amusing history and folklore contributing to the saloon. The massive head of a 250+ lb St. Bernard named Buck is one. Bucks owner loved the dog so much that he took it to a taxidermist to get it mounted. Since very few people mount the heads of St. Bernards, the only cast that would work was one of a grizzly bear. As the story goes, his wife wouldn’t let him keep Buck’s mounted head and so he drove around with it in his truck. After running up a deep tab at the Shooting Star Saloon, the man exchanged it to pay off his tab. This set off a whole slew of taxidermy in the bar, one real winner being the “rear-wolf,” a deer’s butt with wolves’ teeth.
Signed bills from Neil Young and Johnny Cash are just a couple out of the estimated 15,000 pinned right over the bar.
The ceiling is covered with dollar bills that act as a sort of registry. The tradition started when “Whiskey Joe” was running a tab before getting drafted. The bartender pinned a dollar bill to the ceiling to save for when he returned from the military. The dollar still hung there when Joe came home and bills are still being pinned to a ceiling swarming with dollar bills.
Classic and original signs fill the wall space and read:
“Due to the recent budget cuts, the high cost of electricity and gas and the current state of the economy, the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off”
“Shoes and shirts required, bras and panties optional,”
“Max occupancy 222 people or 20 moose.”
“Welcome to the Shooting Star Saloon. Our specialties are Beer, Burgers, and Beer. Sorry we do not serve Yogurt, fries, salsa, salads, or any other such exotic foods.”
We listen to Neil Young’s, “Old Man” on the Jukebox while Leslie prepares our burgers. Eating a $5 burger and drinking a $3 beer in this historic gem makes you feel like you walked into an old John Wayne movie.