Wyatt Earp’s Oriental Saloon & Theater, located in the historic Oriental Saloon building on Fifth and Allen streets in Tombstone, recently celebrated its grand opening.
The building is one of Tombstone’s landmarks, filled with history from the town’s turbulent past.
Built in 1880, the Oriental was one of Tombstone’s most notorious saloons back in the town’s mining heyday of gunslingers, gamblers and brothels.
The original saloon burned in the fire of 1881 that destroyed most of the town, but was quickly rebuilt and reopened in 1882.
“When state prohibition came to Tombstone in 1914, the Oriental became a drug store,” said Tim Fattig, business manager for owner R.J. Herrig, whose family also owns and operates the Crystal Palace. “In the 1970s this was a steakhouse owned by Bob Cattany, then Jim Lindsey operated Linens and Lace out of this location. So, the building has been used for different businesses through the years.”
After taking over the building’s lease, Herrig added a theater with daily shows in the space that housed the original Oriental Saloon. A gift shop filled with books about the area’s history, posters by local artists and a selection of souvenirs fills another section of the building, while a bar is nestled between the theater and gift shop. The newly renovated saloon has an 1880s wood-carved back bar which serves as a stunning centerpiece to the saloon’s Old West look.
Dressed in 1880s attire, Anya Sun plays a dual role for the business as bartender in the saloon and actor in the theater.
“I’m a can-can girl in the show,” she said. “I’ve been working here since the theater and gift shop opened in February, but the saloon came later. In fact, we just celebrated the grand opening a couple of weekends ago.”
The retail side of the business and theater shows started the second week of February, Fattig said.
“It was turn-key to get the theater and gift shop going, but the saloon took much longer because of permits and some of the renovations we needed to do,” he said.
When the Oriental Saloon first opened its doors, it was described by the Tombstone Epitaph newspaper as “ ... the most elegantly furnished saloon this side of the Golden Gate.”
The 5,500-foot space which is now home to the theater, bar and gift store has been well received by tourists who come to Tombstone for its history and Old West feel, said Kyle Truhill, an actor and the show director.
“I’ve been a gunfight actor for 17 years,” he said. “I moved to Tombstone from Virginia City, Nevada, in 2011 and have been here since. What I love most about working and living in Tombstone is that you meet people from all over the world every single day. They come here to learn about the area’s history and relive the Old West.”
Wyatt Larson was visiting Tombstone from Minot, North Dakota and stopped by the newly opened saloon.
“This is my first visit in Arizona, and Tombstone was on my list of places I wanted to see,” he said on Sunday. “It reminds me of Medora, in the badlands of North Dakota. I’m having a great time here, enjoying the sights and the all the saloons.”
Another tourist, Michelle Sullivan, was browsing through the gift shop with her two young children Sunday afternoon while her husband was in the theater watching the show.
“We’re here from Cleveland, Ohio,” she said. “This is the second time I’ve visited Tombstone, but it’s a first for my husband and kids. I’m a western history buff, so when I learned the Oriental Saloon had returned to Tombstone, this was a priority stop for me. I think the owner has done a fabulous job recreating an old west bar. Walking into the saloon is like taking a step back in time and that’s what tourists want to experience.”