The Red Dog Rises again

VIRGINIA CITY -- The Red Dog Saloon is rising again.

Incline Village business owner John Mahaffey and his partner, Dave Hoopengardner, plan to reopen the historic building as a saloon and pizza parlor.

The opening date is tentatively set for Feb. 28, but there's plenty to do before that happens. So both partners have rolled up their sleeves.

"So far, we've invested more sweat than money," Mahaffey said. "We want to clean it up, without changing its historic nature."

The building, which dates to the 1800s, has seen a number of changes through the years, but the new owners are doing some restoration work.

A wall that divided the original saloon was just removed, easily doubling the room's size. The floors are being stripped to their original wood, and the oak-and-brass bar is being refinished.

"We're going to be working day and night on the place until it's time to open," Hoopengardner said.

The new owners are plugging up a hole in the back wall, and the restrooms will get a face lift. The kitchen is being scrubbed and painted, and the plumbing has been updated, as per health department requirements.

Mahaffey is selling his interest in Grumpy's, an Incline Village restaurant and bar, to concentrate on this effort.

A former Marine, he's been a rock concert promoter, photographer and newspaper distributor. He also manages three Carson City apartment buildings.

Hoopengardner is originally from upstate New York. An accomplished skier, he moved to the Lake Tahoe area when he became a sales representative for a ski equipment company.

He earned a degree in business administration from Sierra College in Incline Village and coaches the freestyle ski team at Alpine Meadows. He met Mahaffey when he tended bar at Grumpy's.

Previous owners Richard and Mary Harris closed the Red Dog in early December because of overhead costs.

Mahaffey and Hoopengarner seem cautiously optimistic.

"There are a lot of empty store fronts on this end of town," Mahaffey said. "We want to have positive impact on Virginia City's north end."

Hoopengardner said more kinds of beer will be available, both draft and on tap. Sandwiches and salads will be added to the menu.

Sam Folio, manager of Piper's Opera House, will book the entertainment. If all goes well, Mahaffey and Hoopengardner could take over management of the Corner Bar. Located in the same building as Piper's, the historic bar is being restored.

The Red Dog was an integral part of life during the height of the Comstock Lode. It experienced a rebirth in the 1960s, when it became symbol of the flower child counterculture.

"The San Francisco scene started at the Red Dog Saloon, as much as you can say it started at any one place," Rolling Stone magazine said in February 1976. "Most of the elements were there: rock 'n' roll, a sort of light show, the first psychedelic light poster, the theatrical lifestyle and acid. Lots of acid."

The era was short-lived, lasting only two summers before the movement retreated to San Francisco, according to Silver City resident Travis T. Hipp.


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