Driving through White Oaks, New Mexico, one might easily pass by a small brick building that stands alone on the sparsely populated road. But the No Scum Allowed Saloon is a living relic of the area’s history as a gold rush boomtown and haven for some of the Wild West’s most infamous outlaws.
White Oaks got its start in 1879 after a trio of prospectors discovered gold in the nearby Jicarilla mountains. The population ballooned and it quickly became New Mexico Territory’s liveliest and second-largest town. During its heyday, the Wild West boomtown boasted several newspapers, two hotels, an opera house, and a multitude of saloons, gambling houses, and brothels. Not unexpectedly, White Oaks became a refuge for cattle rustlers, gamblers, gunmen, and all sorts of other outlaws and desperadoes. It was not uncommon to see Billy the Kid and Lincoln County sheriff Pat Garrett wandering the dusty streets. Deputy sheriff James Bell, who was gunned down by Billy during his escape from the Lincoln County Jail in 1881, is buried, along with numerous other notables, in the local cemetery.
In the 1890s, White Oaks began its decline after the hoped-for railroad never arrived and the mines became depleted. Today, while many historic buildings are still standing, the most popular draw in this otherwise sleepy and isolated ghost town with a mere handful of residents is the No Scum Allowed Saloon. Known by locals simply as the “White Oaks Bar,” its more popular moniker originates from the movie Young Guns II in which the sign at the entrance to White Oaks states “We will not tolerate scum.”
The bar is located in a small 1884 brick building that originally served during the Wild West days as an attorney’s office, a print shop for one of the town’s first newspapers, and an assay office. Since the saloon opened in the 1970s, its historical allure has regularly attracted a wide diversity of clientele including ranchers, cowboys, bikers, musicians and, of course, numerous curiosity seekers and tourists. Recognized as one of the best cowboy bars in the West by American Cowboy Magazine, the No Scum Allowed Saloon is home to cold beer as well as live music and dancing, especially on Saturday nights. Intrepid patrons can savor the saloon’s signature drink, the Snake Bite, a unique and secret concoction of liquors that’s not for the faint of heart.
The current proprietor (and bartender), Karen Haughness, is a delightful local resident who is eager to share the old West folklore and history of White Oaks and her No Scum Allowed Saloon.