The Buffalo Chip Saloon is a western dance hall, outdoor rodeo arena, music venue, and restaurant — a destination for those seeking a taste of the Old West in metro Phoenix — specifically, Cave Creek. At least, it was until last fall when the saloon and restaurant, which were both housed in a main building, caught fire and burned "down to the slab pretty much,” according to Buffalo Chip owner Larry Wendt. Since last January, the site has been operating as a stripped-down outdoor bar and rodeo ground.
Now, Wendt and his crew are in the final stretch of construction for a new building at the Chip, which is set to reopen in early to mid-October. The new saloon took a “whole sawmill worth of lumber from California,” Wendt says, and will be about 540 square feet bigger than the former space. The new saloon and restaurant will feature 10 women’s restrooms and eight men’s restrooms, a conference room, air conditioning, and a sprinkler system.
“We’re building it bigger, better, and hopefully, a little more fire-resistant,” Wendt says.
Wendt says he was already paying $180,000 a year in insurance for bull riding and liquor liability, but only had a $150,000 policy on the building. After the fire, “I just thought I’d walk away from it,” he says, “But there was such an outpouring from the community, from the town council, and from our customers and family, within three days, I knew we would rebuild no matter what it took, so that’s what we’re doing.”
But fans of the Chip's authentically Western vibe need not fear. There’s going to be a lot of the old Chip in the new saloon thanks to the restaurant's Relics of the Past campaign. Before the fire, the Buffalo Chip Saloon was adorned in Old West memorabilia including old spurs, hats, boots, and posters. The Relics of the Past project asks community members to bring by their own western-themed items to be donated to the new Relics Wall.
“We’re just trying to make it as much like the old Buffalo Chip as possible,” Wendt says.
The first round of memorabilia was donated over Labor Day weekend, and the second round is set for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on both Saturday, September 10, and Sunday, September 11 at the Chip. A spot on the wall requires a $25 donation to the Church at the Chip, a nonprofit organization that Wendt says is “kind of like a cowboy church.” The group meets every Sunday at the Buffalo Chip Saloon from 9 to 10 a.m.
Wendt says he may host a soft opening event as a thank you for those who helped get the Chip back in business.
“I just want to say a big thank you to everybody," he says, "The community, the council, the mayor, the contractors, all of our friends and customers – everybody that’s helped us get back in the saddle.”
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To learn more about the Relics of the Past project, call 602-400-3330. For more information on the Chip, call 480-488-9118 or visit the Buffalo Chip Saloon website.