Saturday, November 1st will see a very special 80th birthday take place. The party will be celebrating the birthday of Tucson’s ionic Buffet Bar. From 1pm – 5pm, The Buffet will close off its parking lot to host the event. Comments owner, Marilyn Smith, “This little neighborhood bar has been serving cold beer and friendly faces for a very long time. We want to share that excitement with Tucson. We want to give back to our unique community of patrons and supporters over the past 80 years. There will be music, fun, food, raffles, balloons and face painting.” The Buffet Bar first opened in 1934, right after prohibition was repealed and has remained on 9th Street for over 80 years, making the Buffet the oldest bar in Tucson. It is in the heart of the historic Iron Horse Neighborhood, which features many small homes once inhabited by railroad workers. According to Smith, “In the early days, the patrons were primarily rail road workers. The railroad workers had to be close to the depot, so they could hear a train pulling in and knew it was time to go to work.” Over the past 80 years, the Buffet has evolved into a unique neighborhood bar that has opened its doors to every type of person that cared to come by. From college students to professionals, homeless folks to musicians, lots of 3rd shift workers that need a place to stop in and have a drink at 6 am after the end of a long workday and all those in-between - everybody eventually showed up at The Buffet. It’s a rare Tucson resident that can claim they have never visited. The bar was even named one of America’s greatest dive bars by Esquire magazine.
Smith owns and operates the business with her daughter Lisha Smith-Davidson, and son-in-law, Bill Davidson. Comments Smith, “We are the 16th owners of the Buffet Bar in the past 80 years. When the opportunity came up to be part of one of Tucson's oldest businesses, part of Tucson's great hospitality community and part of one of Tucson's most iconic establishments - it was one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and we accepted. It is a privilege and honor to be the caretakers of Tucson's oldest bar. We treasure being a part of the Iron Horse Neighborhood and downtown Tucson. Being Tucson natives and local business owners, we feel it is important to promote, support and maintain this place .” Smith and her family are longtime supporters of the nearby neighborhood. In addition to celebrating The Buffet, the 80th Anniversary party will also benefit two local nonprofits, Positively Beautiful and nearby neighbor and fellow Local First AZ member, Fluxx Studios.
Even Tucson’s Mayor Rothschild has commended them on the occasion of their upcoming 80th birthday and declared it a day of celebration by Mayoral Proclamation. In addition to celebrating their birthday, The Buffet will be showing off their newly restored neon sign. Funded by a partnership with The Junction apartments, The Buffet’s vintage neon sign was restored to its former glory by Cook & Company Signmakers. The sign was restored with funding from The Junction development project at the urging of neighborhood residents and City Councilman, Steve Kozachik as detailed in this recent Arizona Daily Star article highlighting The Buffet Bar and surrounding neighborhood.
As the owner of a local landmark, Smith understands the value of supporting and preserving local businesses. Says Smith, “We support many of our local neighborhood businesses. Without their products or services, we couldn't operate as efficiently. We are all in business to make a living, true. However, it takes the whole community working together to maintain and raise this town to be the very best we can be. Without the sharing and caring among our local businesses, Tucson could stagnate and never prosper. This is our home. We must work together to improve and sustain Tucson as a viable place to call home.”