The word is out: The historic Pozo Saloon is opening its doors once more.
"Just today, I've literally had a dozen cars come up and people get out and wander around" the property in the tiny enclave of Pozo east of Santa Margarita, said Los Osos resident Dean Marchant, one of the saloon's new owners. "It's got people excited."
Part Old West watering hole, part restaurant and rustic event venue, the newly renovated saloon is slated to open for business on May 5 — roughly a year after the 160-year-old building went dark.
Built in 1858, possibly by Pozo founder Ynocente Garcia, the Pozo Saloon has long been a destination for folks in search of beer, barbecue and live music.
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Rhonda Beanway and her husband, Brian, bought the property in 1984 and transformed it into a popular outdoor concert venue that drew such big-name performers as Willie Nelson, Dwight Yoakum, Snoop Dogg and Ziggy Marley.
"I fell in love with (the Pozo Saloon) the first time I walked through the door six years ago," Marchant recalled.
He returned to the saloon repeatedly with visitors eager to see "the country side of the Central Coast."
"It was my favorite place to see a concert," he said. "It was my favorite place to go in a jeep with the kids."
Marchant was heartbroken to hear that serious health problems had forced the Beanways to close the Pozo Saloon. After canceling two major music festivals in April 2017 — Higher Grounds and the Pozo Stampede — they shuttered the venue for good.
"It was a bummer," Marchant said.
He and his partner, Alex Kagan of San Diego, purchased the Pozo Saloon in October, rescuing it from foreclosure. Marchant, who declined to disclose the price tag, took over as property manager Jan. 15 and started working on restoring the saloon to its former self.
"My background is finding things that are broken and fixing them," explained Marchant, owner of Morro Shores Real Estate Co. and Bay Front Marina in Morro Bay. (Kagan is also in the real estate business, he said.)
So far, that job has entailed everything from fixing leaky roofs to installing a new septic system and upgrading the kitchen. A new, $16,000 state-of-the-art irrigation system from Atascadero's Glynnscapes will keep the grassy backyard, capable of accommodating more than 3,000 concertgoers, green year-round.
"We're not changing anything, but we are making it more efficient, safe, fire-proof," Marchant explained.
He and Kagan have been working with consultant Ben Dougherty, whose family owns Nardonne's La Famiglia Pizzeria in Atascadero and Los Osos, to refine the menu for the restaurant, which will be open three days a week.
According to Marchant, diners can expect "savory country comfort food" such as tri-tip, barbecued chicken and burgers, plus a good wine selection and as many as 16 beers on tap.
"We're going to start out very simple," he said, noting that the kitchen will initially be open for lunch and early dinner. Brunch and steak-night dinners may come later.
He and his partner are also taking a cautious approach to event planning.
Although the Pozo Saloon is already booking birthday parties, weddings, motorcycle club rallies and other gatherings, it may be a while before the venue hosts anything on the scale of the Pozo Stampede. "We want to work into concerts in the future," Marchant said.
Opening day coincides with the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo, but don't expect a big, splashy celebration.
Marchant said the event, which will feature food, live music and historical demonstrations, will be fairly low-key.
"It's not about being an overnight success," he said. "It's about the first people walking in (to the Pozo Saloon) and leaving with smiles on their faces."
Pozo Saloon reopening
Celebrate the reopening of the Pozo Saloon, 90 W. Pozo Road in Pozo, on May 5. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.