It’s Time to Rediscover Mooney’s Sunset Bar & Grill and Mooney’s Sunset Motel
By Martha J. Henderson
Fresh off a complete remodel, Mooney’s Sunset Bar & Grill is ready for the summer season on Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees.
The legendary Disney hangout is now under new ownership and Robert Jenks has worked hard to renovate the bar and grill, as well as Mooney’s Sunset Motel, without losing any of the character that has defined Mooney’s Sunset Bar & Grill for four decades.
“Mooney’s Sunset Bar & Grill is a dive bar. It’s not high-end,” Jenks said. “When we remodeled, we didn’t want to lose the dive bar atmosphere, but wanted to clean it up.”
Jenks has managed to do just that.
After buying the business in October 2016, Jenks shut everything down for a couple of months in order to overhaul the facilities from top to bottom.
“We tore it down to the frame. Installed new insulation, sheet rock, paneling, windows and even plumbing,” Jenks said. “We added a wood-pellet stove.”
Jenks also took out the motel room that was at the end of the bar and grill, turning the space into a pool room and the women’s restroom, which was relocated from its original downstairs location.
The small cabin that once sat just outside the bar and grill’s front door also was removed.
Customers who’ve been rediscovering Mooney’s Sunset Bar & Grill since Jenks reopened it last December are finding that while the place may have a fresh new look, the essence that made the bar and grill a Grand Lake hot spot for so many years remains.
Mooney’s Sunset Motel
As people are rediscovering Mooney’s Sunset Bar & Grill, they also are discovering Mooney’s Sunset Motel.
“Mooney had motel rooms. You could get a room, have friends come here,” Jenks said. “The story goes that the motel was designed on a napkin.”
Located just next door to the bar and grill, Mooney’s Sunset Motel overlooks Grand Lake and each room offers spectacular sunset views. The motel is one of the only by-the-room rentals on Grand Lake.
To say the motel is convenient to Mooney’s Sunset Bar & Grill would be an understatement. Prior to the recent renovation, one of the motel rooms was accessible through the bar and grill. Nowadays, a guest does have to walk outside the bar, but it’s only a short walk to the motel rooms.
“Rent a room, come here and party all you want,” Jenks said.
Completely remodeled and refurbished, Mooney's Sunset Motel has undergone the same kind of renovation and refurbishing that the bar and grill were given. Everything is brand new in the three rooms. Two of the rooms are doubles with two queen beds and one is a single with a queen bed.
One of the doubles has a kitchenette that contains a microwave and mini-fridge. All of the motel rooms offer a flat-screen TV, WiFi, cable and a coffee maker.
But the true selling point is that each of the rooms has a private deck overlooking Grand Lake.
“It’s nice and relaxing to sit on the deck and watch the sunset,” Jenks said.
Mooney’s Sunset Motel welcomed its first guests the week of March 24. According to Jenks, the first guests were in town for the annual Big Meat Run.
“People who stayed there, loved ’em,” Jenks said. “Although, they still look a bit rough on the outside, Painting was supposed to start but the rain stopped that. When the water goes down, the outside will match the interior.”
The rooms at Mooney’s Sunset Motel are available seven days a week. The room rate for the single is $100 a night, the double is $150 and the double with kitchenette is $175.
Some dates, including holidays and events, are subject to a three-day minimum. Call (918) 435-5200 for reservations and details.
An Iconic Grand Lake Locale
For 40 years, Mooney’s Sunset Bar & Grill has been a mainstay on Grand Lake. A place where locals and visitors alike have come by land and by Grand to hang out, have fun and create memories that last a lifetime.
According to Jenks, original owner Estel Mooney wanted a bar with a great sunset view. And he found it at 330 Lakefront St., in Disney.
“Mooney’s started out as a little bitty house. I don’t know how many times he added on to it, but he found the perfect location. We have beautiful sunset views,” Jenks said, “There are windows everywhere. When Mooney did it, he did it right. You won’t find a better view on this lake to watch the sunset.”
When Mooney passed away in 2006, members of his family ran the bar and grill for several years before closing it down.
“One guy sold his boat because this bar closed. He heard it opened back up, so he went and bought a new boat,” Jenks said.
Jenks understands how that guy felt. Before he purchased Mooney’s Sunset Bar & Grill, Jenks could be found seated on a bar stool at the end of the bar at Mooney’s.
“I was the drunk at the end of the bar,” joked Jenks. “I started coming when Mooney was here. I would hang out here all the time. I even moved my boat from Ugly John’s down here, so I was just 150 yards from my sailboat.”
After retiring and doing all the traveling he wanted, Jenks found himself on Grand Lake, spending his time hanging out at Mooney’s Sunset Bar & Grill. Just when he decided he needed to get back to work, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
“I battled prostate cancer. Last spring, I got the thumbs up that I’m in remission,” Jenks said. “I decided I needed something to do. I had always kinda wanted to own a bar and I like to socialize. I thought it would keep me busy.”
Jenks jokes that he didn’t think it through, that he didn’t realize the headaches that can come with owning a bar and grill. But he’s getting into the swing of things and is looking forward to the season ahead.
“This will be my first summer. We have a lot of locals and we’re getting ready for summer crowds,” Jenks said.
Preparing for summer on Grand Lake meant also renovating the grill’s kitchen.
“We renovated the kitchen, bought new fryers and grills, even an ice maker so we can sell buckets of beer,” Jenks said. “We’re a bar with good food. Our menu includes burgers, buffalo wings, a grilled chicken sandwich, several salads, lots of fried stuff and quesadillas.
Jenks doesn’t understand the appeal, but says the cheeseburger quesadilla is very popular with locals. It’s a flour tortilla with hamburger, cheese, chopped pickles, grilled onions and mustard. It’s served with a side of ketchup. Jenks shudders as he talks about the dish, but can’t deny that lots of people enjoy the cheeseburger quesadilla.
With all the work Jenks has put into renovating the bar and grill, while still retaining the flavor of the original, it begs the question, “What made Mooney’s Sunset Bar & Grill so special?”
“Just the people I guess,” Jenks said. “And, it was a fun place.”
Mooney’s Sunset Bar & Grill is still a fun place and it is still attracting a fun-loving clientele.
“It’s a great mix of people. You can be sitting next to people worth $20 million and someone who can’t pay his tab,” Jenks said. “Everybody likes coming here. We have a good atmosphere and great, friendly people.”
So, whether you’re dropping by to grab a burger and watch the sunset while listening to some live music, want to party hard with friends or you need a room for the night, you’re sure to have a great time and make some memories at Mooney’s Sunset Bar & Grill and Mooney’s Sunset Motel.
Mooney’s Sunset Bar & Grill is located at 330 Lakefront St., in Disney. Summer hours at the bar and grill, which start Memorial weekend, are Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to midnight, Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The kitchen will be open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
For more information or to make a reservation at Mooney’s Sunset Motel, call (918) 435-5200.