The historic front door of Servente’s Saloon was damaged and dollar bills stolen from the ceiling in a heist that occurred sometime between Thursday night and Friday morning.

Marianne Wright, who purchased the South Washington Street business late last year, said she went home about 5 p.m. Thursday and discovered the break-in when she returned at about noon the next day.

Wright said there were marks on the ceiling evident of where the culprit or culprits used something long to scrape dollar bills tacked onto the ceiling that’s 13 feet, 8 inches high. She estimated as much as $150 was stolen.

For decades, people wrote on dollar bills and tacked them on the ceiling.

Someone posted a picture on Facebook of a dollar bill spent recently at a mini-mart in Big Oak Flat that they believe came from the ceiling of Servente’s due to writing on it that references a bar closing in 2017, which is when Wright took ownership and temporarily shut it down for renovations.

There were also fresh prymarks that Wright believed to be from a crowbar on the front door of Let’er Buck Western Wear located next door, but the suspect or suspects failed to gain entry.

Wright said she reported the crime to the Sonora Police Department on Friday.

Sonora Police Sgt. Curtis Hankins said an officer reviewed footage of surveillance video taken from camera at a business across the street, but it didn’t show anything to provide leads on any potential suspects.

Hankins said the best thing the public can do to help would be to notify Sonora police if they come across any of the bills from the ceiling.

Overnight break-ins at businesses in downtown Sonora are uncommon, Hankins said.

The former owner of the bar, Al Cepeda, told The Union Democrat in December that the owner before him, Bill Servente, kept all of the dollars that were hanging from the ceiling when Cepeda bought the business in 1990.

Wright said she’s not as mad about the dollars being stolen as she is about the damage to the front door, which she believes is at least a century old. The brick structure where the saloon stands was built in 1856 and operated as a dry goods store and grocery store before becoming a saloon in 1926.

Wright is renovating the saloon and hopes to open by fall. She plans on keeping the Servente’s Saloon name and selling liquor and dry goods in the front of the store in addition to the bar.

Contact Alex MacLean at or (209) 588-4530.