Oracle’s Don Juan’s: the old miner’s bar

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By John Hernandez

Don Juan’s bar was once a favorite hangout for the hard working miners in the area. There was a time when miner’s were allowed to run tabs at the bar and then made sure to pay them off on pay day. Many even cashed their mine paychecks at the bar.

The miners from Tucson that worked at Magma would stop after work on their way home for a round or two and a six pack to go. Those days are gone, but the memories still live on.

“People still come in to reminisce about their dads and grandfathers that used to mine” said owner Bill Hernden. People even called it “DJ’s” for short. Some of the old timers drop in to share a story or two.

Owners Bill and Sharon Hernden saved the more than 50-year-old bar within days of the place becoming residential and the liquor license going dormant. They have operated the bar for 20 months now.

“It has been a struggle with the economy,” Bill said. “We have cleaned it up—it is not as rowdy as it used to be.”

The Sheriff’s Office even complimented them on how they run it. People from SaddleBrooke and Eagle Crest are stopping by.

Bill and Sharon are originally from Michigan but moved to Tucson in 1979. Bill is a Vietnam War veteran, serving as an Army scout serving in the Cu Chi district of South Vietnam. He is a Purple Heart recipient.

Bill and Sharon leased and operated the Ghost Ranch Lodge restaurant and bar over three years. While there, they operated the catering service and supplied the continental breakfast for the Lodge. Sharon also managed the River Bottom Saloon on Oracle Road.

Don Juan’s has been in Oracle since the 1950s. It originally was a residential home. Juan and Juanita M. Garcia owned what was known as Garcia’s Oracle Tavern down the hill from where Don Juan’s is located. It was in the old abandoned building which was last known as Maria’s Mesquite. Word has it that Garcia’s was renowned for their Mexican food. One of the family son’s Rito turned the house into a drive through liquor store which was added onto and eventually became Don Juan’s bar named for his father Juan.

The Herndens have learned about the history of Don Juan’s and Oracle from talking with their customers. They could name some of the previous owners and also heard the stories of people driving over the cliff when parking or trying to leave the now-fenced parking lot.

They have kept the place much as it used to be, with a few added touches. Some of the walls have old mining equipment and memorabilia hanging on them and there is a fireplace inside and a large patio with a great view of the Oracle sunsets.

They have two pool tables and televisions for sporting events. Every Saturday at 4 p.m. there is a 9-Ball tournament and an 8-Ball tournament at 4 p.m. on Sundays. They also have entertainment during special events.

Don Juan’s has many different specials during the week. Everyday specials include a 12-inch pizza and a large pitcher of beer for $12. Wednesdays have half-price well drinks and domestic beer.

The bar is open Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., Thursday from 3 to 9, Friday and Saturday from 3 to 12, and Sunday from 3 to 9. They are closed Monday and Tuesday.

Don Juan’s is a nice place to sit and talk with friends, play some pool, and have a good time. Come in and meet Sharon and Bill and enjoy their old time hospitality where customer service is number one and memories of the mining days live on.

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The owners of Don Juan’s in Oracle are Bill and Sharon Hernden. (John Hernandez photo)

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