Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Iron Door Sold


Last updated 10/3/2019 at 10:48am

The iconic iron doors of the aptly named Iron Door Bar in Ocotillo Wells are still open after escrow closed Sept. 6 on the $255K sale of the establishment.

Originally built in 1969, and formerly owned/operated by Holly Turner since 1981, the Iron Door is on Split Mountain Road about a mile south of Highway 78.

Its new owner, Mark Berger, will keep the 12-foot high iron doors open and beer flowing while using a temporary liquor license until the final one is issued, according to local real estate agent David Cragoe, the seller’s agent and owner of RoadRunner Realty in Borrego.

“I’ve built bars, but I’ve never owned one,” Berger said, a commercial builder out of San Diego.

He financed the purchase, and his partner, Shad Hutziger, who lives down the street, will be running day-to-day operations.

Berger and Hutziger plan to make small upgrades to the bathrooms, electrical system, perhaps new countertops and a new refrigerator, maybe an upgrade to the porch, but they want to keep the basic character of the bar the same. The local community wants it that way, he said, and Berger and Hutziger want them involved with the bar. The “cash only” requirement posted on the front door will also change to take credit/debit cards.

Hutziger, a disabled Navy veteran, has lived in Ocotillo Wells for five years, having owned a company specializing in recycling and electronics. He owns 100 motorcycles and is an avid off-roader, and has assisted many other off-roaders who broke down out in the desert in the middle of the night. He has a personal goal of meeting one million people in his lifetime, currently up to 350,000.

“I’m all about love and kindness and nature,” Hutziger said. One of the reasons he got involved in the sale was to preserve the local character of the Iron Door before someone came in and either made drastic changes or even razed it completely. “Our community not only wants the bar, we also need the bar,” he said.

The Iron Door Bar is a rustic, Old West-style bar with pool tables and serving pizza, hot dogs, and “picked egg,” to name a few menu items, to locals and off-road enthusiasts in Jeeps, dune buggies, motorcycles, and family SUV’s; folks come to the area to traverse the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Recreation Area.

The bar comes replete with glued, stapled, or pin-held $1 paper currency covering the interior ceiling and walls, and there are hitching posts outside. It’s become a very popular tourist attraction.

The iron doors were part of the original construction in 1969, but their point of origin is subject to some dispute. Either they were from a mine somewhere up north, or maybe from the Santa Clara Mission, or perhaps originally built as the covering for a dynamite shed. But then again, residents are often unable to pinpoint the location of the repeatedly stolen Ocotillo Wells population sign posted on Highway 78. The 2010 U.S. Census reported a population of 266, but with a new census coming next year, that number is sure to change.

Berger said they’re planning a big Halloween party, so look for details here in early- to mid-October.

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