Tri-Cities Voice Newspaper - What's Happening - Fremont, Union City, Newark California

April 26, 2005 > The Saddle Rack

The Saddle Rack

Fremont inherits a legend

Gary Robinson was made an offer he could not refuse. He says, "Originally, I wasn't attracted at all. My drywall business was keeping me busy and so was my resort in Northern California." However, when the Saddle Rack closed its San Jose location, Robinson became its owner the next day. A private pilot, he met the former owner of The Saddle Rack, Hank Gunther, also a pilot when they both flew to Gary's resort, Eagle Lake, to spend time away from the hustle and bustle of their working lives.

Although Robinson visited the Saddle Rack when he was younger, the thought of owning such an establishment never entered his mind. "I am a country western fan, so that part is legitimate," says Robinson. When visiting Eagle Lake, Robinson often filled in behind the bar. Since his social activity mirrored Gunther's style, it motivated him to buy the bar.

"I didn't realize it was going to be so hard to find a new location," says Robinson. After diligent searches in San Jose and Santa Clara, he began to look in Fremont. Finally he decided on Fremont and claims, it was a smooth process. "They did a great job of getting us through the process; this place had to be rezoned. Robinson moved his drywall business from Campbell to a building on a three-acre site on Boscell Road and redesigned a portion of it to house The Saddle Rack. The purchase of an additional contiguous acre provided additional and necessary parking.

"Hank and I spent a lot of time together and previewed a lot of properties." He adds that Gunther helped design the club to reflect lessons he learned during his tenure with The Saddle Rack. Robinson is happy with the results and grateful for the opportunity to benefit from the Gunther's experience. A large open area is surrounded by bars, a mechanical bull, an Oxygen Bar, food service and a "Margarita Chair." A large stage with impressive sound and sophisticated lighting is the focal point for stage shows that often highlight well-known musicians and vocalists as well as future superstars. Huge video screens perch on perimeter walls. The main dance floor is used for dancing, lessons or seating while a smaller area serves as a line dancing haven.

On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights (7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.), the main dance floor fills with a happy crowd of almost any age (over 21) stepping and twirling and sashaying to the voice of a patient dance instructor teaching line and couples dance to the beat of good country music. There is no extra charge for lessons. Robinson notes that one of his biggest concerns when acquiring The Saddle Rack was "taking on liability that I really didn't need. My idea was to create an environment where people can have a good time." There is no way to confuse the Saddle Rack with a hip hop club; this is a fun and orderly high energy crowd that enjoys a good show, country-style dancing and music - and maybe a session with a spirited mechanical bull.

A survey of the crowd is enough to convince anyone that there are a lot of folks of any age, size or shape that enjoy The Saddle Rack. Robinson has paid attention to details such as clean and spacious bathrooms and a well-lit parking lot plus a comforting presence of security personnel. A separate area sports pool tables and pinball machines for those who want to take a break from the main room. Large groups can reserve a portion of the main room for special functions.

"The word around Nashville is getting out," says Robinson. The club is drawing headline entertainment and the venue, while well-known from its San Jose location, needed to "prove itself as a good place to hold the shows." There is always first rate live entertainment at The Saddle Rack. According to Robinson, a recent show headlining Emerson Drive was "awesome." He adds, "We have very talented musicians, good people and it really comes out in their performances."

Although entertainment is first-rate and crowds are building, Robinson says that even those who decide to come at the last minute can usually find a seat. Given current trends, however, that may be a diminishing opportunity. Music at The Saddle Rack spans a range of sounds. Although Country Western is at the base, country has fused with other styles and will often exhibit the influence of rock & roll, blues and other music genre.

The Saddle Rack clientele spans many generations from 21-year-olds coming to a bar for their first time to octogenarians kicking up their heels on the dance floor. "Our cover charge helps take the emphasis off drinking," says Robinson. "We have a lady who is 84, who celebrated her birthday in here. She comes in twice a week and you will see her sitting down sometimes, but most of the time, she is on the dance floor. She comes in around 7:30 p.m. and won't leave until close to 11 p.m." Robinson says another customer who doesn't drive, takes the bus from San Jose, bikes from the bus stop to the club, even in the rain, and shows up to dance until closing. He claims that his calling in life is to "make sure everyone has a good time and teach them how to dance."

"Each night takes on its own environment," says Robinson. The dance floor is always popular while some people gather at the pool tables or by the mechanical bull. For those who need a pick-me-up, the Oxygen Bar can give a boost with 92 percent oxygen, which can be combined with flavors such as Eucalyptus, Cappuccino and Strawberry. "It's amazing to see the energy on the dance floor, especially on a Friday or Saturday night when Appaloosa [band] gets the crowd going."

Robinson's dream of an active nightclub where people come to meet, relax, dance and have a lot of fun has been realized. He credits much of the success to General Manager Andy Buchanan who has been with The Saddle Rack for 25 years and much of the staff who moved with the Saddle Rack as well. "I am very proud of the culture of our club and the clientele it attracts," says Robinson.

Now that he and the Saddle Rack staff have done their part, the only question remaining is, "When will you visit The Saddle Rack?"

The Saddle Rack
42011 Boscell Rd., Fremont
(510) 979-0477

Cover charge:
Wed, Thurs: $5
Fri, Sat: $10 until 10 p.m.; $15 after 10 p.m.
(Events not included)

Doors open at 7:00 p.m.
Dancing Lessons 7:30 p.m.
Bands: 9:00 p.m. (Sat: 7:10 p.m. & 10:00 p.m.)

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