The Claim Jumper rides into the sunset
The Claim Jumper Steakhouse, one of Main Street’s oldest and most storied restaurants, is closing its doors in Park City.
It never changed main owners, never changed hours, and rarely changed its menu and as of Aug. 18, the model of consistency will be gone.
"My father started it 30 or 40 years ago," said Tammy Ringwood, daughter of owner Richard Ringwood and current manager. "I think it’s one of the oldest buildings in Park City to be under the same ownership. But Aug. 18 is the last night we’ll serve dinner."
Dinner is all the restaurant has ever served. The hours have been 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week since it opened. Now during those hours, the Scully Building, which houses both The Claim Jumper and Ringo’s Private Club, will be dark.
Tammy said, last week, when Richard finally signed the papers to sell the building to a developing group, the 70-year-old immediately jumped on his Harley Davidson and went for a ride and he’s still not back.
"My dad is an entrepreneur, but I think it’s time he takes a ride on his horse or on his Harley and just enjoys life," Tammy said. "He’s finally ready to let some things go. People have been trying to buy that building for 10 years. It’s a beautiful building. It’s a historical landmark."
Although Tammy will still run The Claim Jumper in Heber City, as well as many of her father’s other businesses and investments, she said the memories of The Claim Jumper will always stay with her.
Like the memory of being a 10 year old and being scared to death of the building’s third floor. Before it was The Claim Jumper, the Scully building was The New Park Hotel. Richard and then-partner Lloyd Stevens decided to keep bedrooms on the third floor and let The Claim Jumper’s employees live there for free. Tammy said the employees would stay up late partying and then sleep in late. Tammy and her sister Kim would take turns daring each other to walk farther and farther down the hall, frightened they would be joined by an inebriated employee on his way to the dorm-style bathroom down the hall.
Then there’s Kat James. James used to play her guitar and sing at The Down Under, which was what Ringo’s used to be called, five nights a week. She remembers meeting Burt Reynolds at the club, and then meeting Sally Field a few days later. And there’s the time when Ruth Buzzy from "Laugh-In" was doing the limbo.
But there was one night that sticks out in her mind like a redhead in China.
"One of the really great times was when I was playing with my former partner in the summer of 1981," James said. "We went to a Jerry Jeff Walker concert and we got his roadies to give him some temporary membership passes to The Claim Jumper. The next night we were playing our regular gig and someone said some members of Jerry Jeff Walker’s band were at the bar. Someone went up to one of them and said, ‘Hey, I heard you’re part of Jerry Jeff Walker’s band.’ The guy looked back and said, ‘I am Jerry Jeff.’ Later that night he got up and played for nothing. We were there until probably 3 a.m. with a couple hundred people packed in like sardines."
Debbie Hansen worked at The Claim Jumper from 1975 to 1985. She said she has enough stories about the restaurant to write a book, but if she told some of them then she’d have to leave town.
"The most important thing to me is how we all really grew up together," she said. "The policemen used to give all the bartenders a ride home. Back when Huggard and Al Allen were on the force. We’d call them up and they’d pack us all into the only car they had and drive us home. You don’t quite get that service now.
"It was just one of those places where we would close the bar up but the party would just continue on."
Tammy said it’s the memories that will keep the legacy of The Claim Jumper alive.
"The hardest part for me is just letting go," she said. "It’s a part of me. It will be hard to not just be able to come in anytime and get a table. And the food was good. We have only added something like three items to the menu in 15 years. We only have one salad dressing and people love it. The locals love it. They always come in, at least when they could find parking."
But she also said it was time to move on and focus on other things, but not without one last hurrah.
"It will be a sad goodbye for my dad because it’s a bit of his legacy," Tammy said. "He said to me, and this is when I knew he was going to be OK, ‘I don’t envy their journey.’ It’s an old building that requires a lot of attention and now he won’t have to worry about it. It all worked out perfect."
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