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New ‘Zoo’ Keeper Making Changes

Flagstaff resident Mary Butwinick is making big changes at the Museum Club. She and her fiancé, Bret Rios, purchased the iconic Route 66 establishment, affectionately known as “The Zoo,” in March.

“We aren’t the owners, we are just honored to be part of her history and to take care of her,” Butwinick said. “I hadn’t planned on buying a bar, but when I saw this place, I knew this was where I was supposed to be. I call her, ‘this old girl’ and now I get to be part of her history.

“It is a lot of responsibility to preserve the history and personality of such an iconic venue. I am not afraid of the pressure of running the business side of things; I am more concerned that I am doing right by this place.”

Butwinick is an expert when it comes to working in the bar industry and helping businesses reach their full potential, while maintaining the unique culture. She has more than 20 years of experience managing operations in the gaming industry. She has also started and expanded several businesses.

“I won’t jeopardize the history or culture of The Zoo,” Butwinick said over the sounds of work crews and band members. “I want to enhance what is already here. We aren’t changing things, just restoring and refreshing this amazing place. I want to continue what was already started.”

Since assuming ownership, Butwinick has been making improvements, including:

  • More than 2,400 square feet of concrete added to create a functional back patio complete with a draft beer bar, tables and chairs and a stone fireplace.
  • All of the flooring, except the dance floor, has been replaced.
  • New lighting inside and outside.
  • The bathrooms are getting a makeover.
  • All of the bar stools have been restored.
  • The booth tops are being restored and the seats are being reupholstered.
  • The stage is getting a facelift including new flooring and curtains.
  • New high-top tables and stools expanded sitting capacity.
  • An expanded food menu.
  • Specialty drinks.
  • There will be a larger variety of wine.
  • New Museum Club merchandise.
  • A new “old” red Chevy truck that will soon say, “Follow me to The Zoo” on the back.


“We want The Zoo to offer something for everyone,” Butwinick said. “We will have live music and dancing on the weekends. Wednesday will remain Dime Beer Night for the NAU students, Monday nights feature Karaoke Night, Tuesday and Thursday nights we offer dance lessons, Sunday is Latino Night, and other special events.”

Butwinick also says they plan to continue bringing in the live bands, including many more tribute bands.

“I am honored to be able to help make the Museum Club the best it can be.”

Butwinick bought the establishment from Brandyn Tullis, who was just 20 years old and a senior at Northern Arizona University when he became one of the owners.

“I heard stories from locals about the live music and dancing that used to be such a big part of the club and the community. I wanted to bring the bands back to The Zoo. I wanted this to be a place that people experienced, not just went to,” he said.

Tullis and his partners, Brandon and Stephanie Bower, were successful. In the last decade, the Museum Club has booked long-time country singers like Johnny Lee and new, soon-to-be-famous singers like Casey James from American Idol.

“This place has been here for 85 years,” Tullis said. “No one ‘owns’ it, we are just honored to take care of it and be part of it. The Museum Club will outlive all of us. I feel very privileged to be part of the history of this place.”

Popular day-time bartender, Miss Jane, sums up the recent ownership like this: “Brandyn Tullis and his partners brought our beloved Museum Club back to life; Mary is bringing out the beauty of what this place should be.”

Built in 1931, the world-famous Museum Club is located at 3404 E. Route 66 in Flagstaff. For more information, visit TheMuseumClub.com or become a friend on Facebook. FBN

By Starla S. Collins, FBN

Photo caption:


Mary Butwinick embraces the Zoo Club, Route 66 culture. The red Chevy truck will soon say, “Follow me to The Zoo.”

Photo by Starla Collins

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