The operators of Piper's Opera House believe it will take more than grants and successful shows to raise enough money to restore the venerable old hall - it will take those who like to imbibe.
With that in mind, Executive Director Dick Stoll and contractor Bo Johansson are working hard to restore John Piper's Old Corner Bar, which Stoll believes was located in the south section of the first floor of the building.
The bar, when completed, will be open much of the time, not just when Piper's has an event scheduled, he said, adding that Virginia City might not need another bar, "but we do."
Stoll said the saloon would provide much-needed revenue and that all proceeds would go toward restoration of the building.
Stoll held a preview of the bar Friday as part of the opera house's monthly potluck birthday parties. He said folks can get an idea of what it will look like when it's done, which he hopes will be in three or four months.
The top of the bar itself, and the corbels or decorative pieces that hold the sections in place, are being hand-crafted by Johansson, and the front of the bar are antique sections from San Francisco that Stoll said local resident Ralph Arista, who kept them for 30 years, had donated.
About a third of the bar is done, restrooms are being built, and a section leading from the bar to the cold storage is taking shape, with arched doorways and muslin covering the wall, just as it does in the hall upstairs.
Stoll said four railroad car booths from the late 1800s and 1900s, will line the wall, and the rest of the bar will be furnished with period tables and chairs. There will also be a section for a band.
An area that is complete is a service entrance on the north side of the first floor that also serves as a second fire exit.
"We cut through 30 inches of concrete to put this here," he said.
Along the northeast wall are benches, where tourists can wait for the next scheduled tour. They will be restored and covered with Victorian-style velvet cushions, Stoll said.
He said when visitors don't make the scheduled tour, they go back down the hill and usually don't return.
"Now if a tour is not yet scheduled, they can have a drink and have a nice place to wait," he said.
Piper's has been very active with performances, dance classes, weddings and more, with all profits going to the restoration. Dan Hicks recently played to a sold-out crowd, as have Lacy J. Dalton, the Comstock Cowboys, the Austin Lounge Lizards and the Nevada Civic Light Opera.
He said Piper's was in pretty good shape financially now, with the performances, grants and private donations, and the Old Corner Bar will add to the revenue stream.
Stoll said Piper's was in good shape with its mortgage, and was planning to refinance to pay off a line of credit.
"When we are all done, the only thing we'll owe money for is the mortgage," he said.
• Contact staff writer Karen Woodmansee at email@example.com or 881-7351.