Bartender Wayne Cutting welcomes guests at the newly opened Ranch House Tavern. Photo by Marion Vendituoli

May 2017 saw a fire and destruction of Cunningham’s Ranch House Bar and Restaurant in Sonoita. First established in 1978, Cunningham’s was a gathering place for local ranchers, cowboys and travelers passing through on Hwy 82. 

Out of the ashes rose the new Ranch House Tavern, which opened November 2022. Local business owner and Arizona native Chris Gronlund saw an opportunity to build on the property. However, his wife, Sheree, had a more ambitious idea. She suggested that they continue the tradition of a local bar, so after a little persuading, the couple put her idea into action and the Ranch House Tavern became a reality. 

Gronlund has extensive experience in construction and plumbing and was able to do much of the building and design with the help of friends and family and brought in other professionals when needed. In the process, he also was able to purchase the adjoining Van Kirk property and has remodeled that into a two separate pieces, a VRBO and an Air B&B.

Starting a new business from scratch can be a daunting endeavor and Gronlund credits the owners of the Copper Brothel for advice as to inventory, permitting, and the legal details of opening a bar. In keeping with the tradition of the original restaurant, the Ranch House Tavern is also licensed and plumbed to serve food but the set-up is not currently complete.

It took two years to obtain a series 6 liquor license, the highest level granted by the state. Gronlund is proud to offer some of the finest whiskeys available to his customers. He also is grateful to have Todd and Kelly 

Bostock, owners of Dos Cabezas as next-door business neighbors. They provide pizzas for the bar when needed, but they only have a license to serve wine, so Gronlund is able to offer other alcoholic choices to winery customers who walk the short distance over from Dos Cabezas. Gronlund also offers Dos Cabezas wine to his bar patrons at the same price as the winery charges. The two businesses complement and support each other in the small-town tradition that Sonoita enjoys.

The cozy interior of the bar area has a simple décor and seating for only about 20 or so depending on how “cozy” one is comfortable with. The establishment also has a patio in the back with tables and chairs that can accommodate 36 or so patrons. It has space heaters for the cooler evenings and lighting to make it more festive. The front porch also sports seating for the patrons who would like to watch the traffic go by on Hwy. 82 as they enjoy their drinks.

“For a business to survive in Sonoita it has to offer customer service and consistency,” said Gronlund. With the help of friends, family, bar manager Sharon Morse and their part-time bartenders, the Ranch House Tavern looks forward to serving the community. Gronlund hopes to expand the business by offering his facility for private parties and weddings in the coming months. 

The bar is open weekdays from 2-8p.m. and weekends from 11-8. Food trucks offer pizzas, burgers, and burritos on the weekends. The Ranch House Tavern is located at 3250 Hwy 82 just east of the crossroads. They are active on Facebook and have a website in the making.