BISBEE — The old Pizza House on Highway 92 is being reimagined again as the new, distinctive home of Bisbee American Legion L.A. Engle, Jt., Post 16 and will open for business on Thursday, May 27, thanks to many volunteers and donations from across the state.
Frank Zavala, post finance officer, and Paul Harrington, present commander, spoke with grateful voices about the still ongoing major renovation that turned the former restaurant into a dynamic clubhouse.
Zavala said the post membership had to sell the old location on Subway Street in Old Bisbee due to the extensive costs, estimated at $374,000, to bring the 100-year-old building up to code. They decided to sell the building and look for a new location.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 836 just down the road provided a temporary home while they searched. They were able to hold their meetings there and keep the club together.
Finally, the old building was sold and they had the cash in hand to find a permanent home of their own with the hope they could find a place already set up for a bar, explained Zavala. They asked Freeport McMoRan, Inc., Copper Queen Branch general manager Robert Quintanar about an old bar near the Bisbee Breakfast Club that had been shuttered for years, but found it to be too small and in too bad of shape.
But, what they did find there was beautiful, aged lumber which Freeport donated, Zavala continued. Pallets were also donated to the cause. The wood inspired member Jeffery Reig, an experienced woodworker and soon to be commander of the Post, to design the bar, which took over 200 hours to complete, and the back wall into tastefully unique Bisbee works of art.
“We’ve been working on this for seven months,” said Zavala. “We had to do electrical work, fix the septic system, scrape up the old carpet, sand the concrete floor and seal it. There was a lot of mold here, too. It was a long road to get it ready.”
Under the guidance of Reig, volunteers came in and gradually made headway enough to open for the Memorial Day weekend.
A lot of work remains in the kitchen, said Harrington. They have a stove donated by the former owners of the restaurant next to the Hitchin’ Post. They found a huge refrigerator for a great price in Paradise Valley and drove up to pick it up. They have to install a range hood to get the stove working and that project may end up with a bit more roof repair. So, food items will be limited to start with.
“American Legion posts from across the county and the state donated things,” said Zavala. “The stools and chairs, tables, even bar glasses are all donated.”
Harrington added, “We had a tremendous amount of support. People have been more than generous in their time and financially.”
Reig, who was putting the final coat of sealer on the bar, said the post saved around $5,000 by using the repurposed wood from donations.
“People have been so generous,” Reig added.
Though the kitchen is not set up yet for cooking or baking, they can serve microwaved food. The full service bar will be open for bottled beer and liquor over the weekend. On Memorial Day, they plan to grill hotdogs and burgers outdoors and will offer beverages and snacks from noon to 5 p.m.
The post will be open to the public for the weekend, after that it will be members only and their guests.
The Post also hosts the Legion Riders, active as the Patriot Guard, and Legion Auxiliary for women. Annual membership is $35.