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Saloon doors are pairs of doors which only go partway up an opening, permitting a free view into and out of a room. Classically, saloon doors are also installed several inches above the floor to provide plenty of clearance. As the name suggests, saloon doors are closely associated with the saloons of the American West, but they can crop up in a wide variety of other structures as well, ranging from restaurants to private homes.
There are several reasons why people might choose to install saloon doors. Obviously, these doors are not weather tight, but they do create a symbolic barrier which encourages people to stop before entering a building, room, or area. The clear view above the doors allows people on both sides to see what is going on, which can be extremely useful, and the swinging, handle-free design allows people to open saloon doors without their hands.
In restaurants, saloon doors are often used in the kitchen, where people need to be able to get in and out quickly with armloads of trays and other supplies. The view out of the kitchen is useful, allowing people to check that the way is clear before coming out, and allowing diners to see some of the work in the kitchen, something which appeals to some people. Saloon doors also create a clear barrier which suggests that members of the general public are not welcome beyond the doors. The same design is sometimes used in clinics, emergency rooms, and police stations with the same ideas in mind.
Private homes sometimes use saloon doors to create barriers between rooms without making people feel boxed in. They are also used as a decorative accent, especially in homes with a Western feel or design aesthetic. These doors can also be used in places like public restrooms to allow privacy while promoting ventilation and discouraging people from lingering too long in the bathroom.
One might reasonably ask what the function of saloon doors in an actual saloon might have been, and the answer is actually a bit unclear. As Westerns seem to suggest, saloon doors are ideally designed for tossing people out, but it seems unlikely that early architects thought of this. These doors may have been installed primarily for the view, which allowed patrons to check on their horses and the situation in the street while they were in the saloon. The windows of saloons were often covered for privacy, so the view out the doors would have been the only unobstructed line of sight.