Tucson is brimming with old structures rumored to be haunted, from Hotel Congress to the Fox Theatre, but the Owls Club is where both alcoholic and ghostly spirits collide.
Just around the corner, in historic Armory Park, the Owls Club is a western-inspired bar brimming with spirits of all kinds: historic, alcoholic and — depending on what you believe — supernatural.
The bar is housed in an old mortuary, according to Andrés Ortiz Sanroman, who has been bartending there since it first opened. The repurposed chapel has dim chandelier-lit rooms, the original church pew seating, stained-glass windows and flickering candles, making for a spooky setting.
“Many people think the building is haunted,” Ortiz said. “I’ve had customers tell me they’ve heard voices talk to them from certain corners of the bar.”
It’s no wonder why the bar has earned such a reputation. According to Real Estate Daily News, thousands of bodies had been escorted in and out of that building for nearly a century.
The original mortuary, Bring Funeral Home, was opened back in 1928.
According to the home’s website, the funeral home moved locations in 2014 due to a decline in downtown real estate and is now located on 6910 E. Broadway Blvd. Then, as stated on the Peach Properties website, the former mortuary was renovated and converted into a two-story building by Ron Schwabe and Marcel Dabdoub in 2015.
The Owls Club later opened in November 2016.
The concept behind the bar was to pay homage to a late-19th century local bachelors’ club of the same name, according to Ortiz.
According to Dawn Moore Santiago in the Journal of Arizona History, the original Owls Club lasted from 1886 to 1912, founded by 13 wealthy bachelors looking to bring their finery and finesse to the frontier lands of the not-yet-declared city of Tucson.
Many of those men became affluent businessmen and academics at the University of Arizona. From the original mansion’s opulent adobe walls, well-to-do men working at the Tucson outpost of the Southern Pacific Railroad would wander into the bar for a drink, according to Real Estate Daily News.
Their wild parties lasted late into the night, so they aptly adopted the owl for their mascot. Fittingly, the club was closed when the founder got married, Ortiz said.
“We don’t go that far. You’re allowed here if you’re married or not,” Ortiz said. “The modern Owls Club isn’t just a bar for bachelors. Everyone is welcome.”
This Owls Club is not as populated with bachelors of the Wild West like its predecessor. These days, a wide range of customers come to the bar, from college students to theatergoers, according to Ray Chasson, the bar’s custodian.
Despite the quiet whispers of shades from the building’s glory days as a mortuary and the ghosts of eligible bachelors, the only spirits Ortiz has encountered are the intoxicating kinds.
David Wood, a first-timer at the bar, stopped in Arizona in the middle of his western road trip. He had been in Tucson for five days.
“There’s an incredibly chill vibe,” Wood said. “The space is really cool and the bartenders know what they’re doing.”
The Owls Club has a selection of six house-invented cocktails, a large whiskey collection and a variety of wines, beers and other liquors, according to their website.
UA alumnus Chushi Mwewa stopped by the bar for his second time on Tuesday, Oct. 15, on his way home from working at a mine.
“For me, the uniqueness, the good prices and the history of the bar are really cool,” Mwewa said. “I’ve traveled all over the world and this is the first time I’ve ever seen something like this. It’s somewhere I would want to bring a friend or someone from out of town.”
The bar is located at 236 S. Scott Ave. and is open from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. every day of the week. Whether you’re looking to find a friendly place to stop and have a drink or are hunting for haunted hangouts, the Owls Club is the place for you.
Even if the specters and stories don’t interest you, “Everybody likes candles,” barback Robert Bayze said.
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