Breckenridge’s historic Gold Pan Saloon celebrates one of the oldest liquor licenses in the West

Joe Moylan
Summit Daily/Joe Moylan

The Gold Pan Saloon is a Breckenridge legend.

Steeped in western cultural history, the Gold Pan Saloon has survived at 103 N. Main St. for 152 years and serves as a long-standing tribute to America’s adventurous spirit.

First established in 1861 as a tent structure known as Long’s Saloon, the building that now houses the Gold Pan was not constructed until 1879. Since then it has undergone countless ownership changes with each proprietor bringing its own unique vision for success.

Before officially becoming the Gold Pan Bar in 1953, the saloon was known during the early 1900s as The Palace Restaurant, which specialized in oysters, but also served fresh trout patrons could select themselves from the establishment’s fish tank. Later, the Gold Pan would house a two-lane bowling alley and billiards room before another conversion transformed it into the bar locals and visitors are more familiar with today.

The walls of the Gold Pan also have born witness to some of its own unique events, including Wild West shootings and a booming liquor trade in spite of the federal prohibition of alcohol. The Gold Pan also boasts what could potentially be the longest running liquor license west of the Mississippi.

With so much rich history one would think it would be difficult to find new reasons to celebrate. But the newest management team is committed to writing its own chapter in the historical epic that is the Gold Pan Saloon.

During the last several months, general manager Reid Pellegrin, executive manager Jan Butler and the rest of the Gold Pan Saloon staff hired a new chef, revamped the food and drink menus and created a more uniform western décor, all with the intention of stepping up its level of service.

The new management staff also promised to have more fun and to celebrate the little things. Locals received their first taste of that new management philosophy last Thursday when the Gold Pan Saloon hosted a Prohibition-era party to commemorate the recent completion of bathroom renovations.

In addition to encouraging patrons to dress appropriately for the time, the Gold Pan featured wine and whiskey tastings and live music by Todd Johnson and the Bad Blues Band.

“It’s a drastic change because we used to be notorious for having the worst bathrooms in town,” Pellegrin said. “We always kept them clean, but when they’re that old they always look kind of dirty. Now, in my opinion, they’re the nicest in town. They look amazing.”

The upgrade couldn’t have come soon enough, said Butler, who has been pushing for new bathrooms since she started at the Gold Pan five years ago. The last time the Gold Pan’s water closets received an overhaul, Lyndon B. Johnson was president of the United States.

Although it might seem like an unorthodox reason to throw a party, Breckenridge is a recreation community and people who have fun for a living tend to turn any occasion into an excuse to get down.

Last week’s party was no exception and Pellegrin said they decided to go with the Prohibition theme to not only play off the Gold Pan’s history, but also to cash in on renewed public interest since the release of the movie “The Great Gatsby.”

“We’ve never done a fancier-style party like this, but it made sense because of our own history with Prohibition,” Pellegrin said. “We had people coming in waves, and those who dressed up rocked out until about one in the morning.”

For more information about the Gold Pan Saloon or to view its new food and drink menus, visit

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