A former funeral home in downtown Tucson is transforming into a swanky cocktail bar.
When it opens next month, Owls Club will be the anchor business in a larger project headed by Patricia and Ron Schwabe of Peach Properties. Along with developer Marcel Dabdoub, Peach has invested nearly $2 million into the purchase and renovation of the historic Bring Funeral Home at 236 S. Scott Ave.
Bring operated there from 1928 to 2014.
The Schwabes, who own Penca gourmet Mexican restaurant downtown, have enlisted the restaurant’s bartender, Bryan Eichhorst.
The team hopes to create a destination area on the cozy side street of South Scott, bringing in local retailers, offices and an Exo Roast Co. coffee shop. (By next year they also hope to build out a late-night takeout kitchen run by Penca’s chef Drew Burk, inside one of the garages on the south side of the building.)
Owls Club will be front and center, inside the former chapel on the ground floor. The 2,500-square-foot space will feature tables made from the original pews, as well as a bar top made with repurposed wood from the former site of Chicago Music Store.
The concept is based on the original Owls Club at 378 N. Main Ave. In the early 1900s, the club served well-heeled bachelors working at the Tucson outpost of the Southern Pacific Railroad.
The group “had grown up in big cities, were wealthy, used to going out dining, going to see ballets,” Eichhorst said. “Kind of uppity wealthy guys, to get off the stagecoach in a tuxedo and look around and there’s nowhere to eat, there’s nowhere to drink, there’s nowhere to do anything.”
To solve their problem, they had an ornate mansion built by Tucson architect Henry Trost to hold wild dinner parties catered by the best chefs. It was called Owls Club because the parties would last late into the night, Eichhorst said. It was “our own little nice place out in the dirty west.”
The modern Owls Club will feature a concise cocktail list of “complex originals,” in addition to a selection of Old World wines and eight beer taps. Eichhorst is also compiling a 100-strong whiskey list with everything from Buffalo Trace Benchmark bourbon at $2 a shot, to a 34-year old Port Ellen single malt at $6,000 a bottle. (There will also be a $2 beer offering, possibly Dixie from New Orleans.)
The bar will also feature live music on a stage built where the pulpit of the chapel used to be. An additional lounge room with a TV and bookshelves will be a place for small parties.
Patricia Schwabe is hoping the bar and community space will bring more locals south of Broadway, where downtown is just beginning to expand.
“We do have in downtown some areas that are dead areas,” she said. When people used to walk there, “everything would be dark. Now it will be alive, and it will have a presence.”