‘The bar that can’t be killed’
Crazy Horse set to reopen in September
With a longstanding dream of starting a business together, best friends Gina Dondero and Terra Saxton jumped at the opportunity when the Crazy Horse Saloon building at 230 Commercial Street became available.
Now business partners, the two have been working around the clock to prepare for the grand opening of their family-friendly restaurant and bar, Crazy Horse Saloon and Grill in September.
“We’re just so excited… Everyone is one 100 percent for us,” said Dondero of the positive community feedback she and Saxton have received.
Both in their early 30s, the two women have a background running restaurants and bars. Dondero helped start three restaurants from the “ground up” in Olympia, Wash., while Saxton worked “in the industry” in Lake Tahoe.
When Crazy Cow Yogurt closed last spring and the old brick building became available for lease, the women realized the time was right.
“We’re both in love with the building,” said Dondero, who recently joined Saxton to settle in the area. They hope to bring new life to a section of town that has been troubled by “behavior” issues centered at the boardwalk.
At the new Crazy Horse Saloon and Grill, customers will find quality pub style food and a full bar. Lunch, dinner and late night meals will be served. The saloon is a place where sports fans can always catch a game and keeping to the venue’s historic tradition, the new Crazy Horse will feature live music.
“We’re going to have some real special bands come through,” Dondero said.
Originally opened as the Chief Crazy Horse Inn in 1965 by Ray Dallugge, the old brick building is somewhat of a landmark in town among locals, serving as a watering hole for decades and most recently converted into a yogurt shop.
Historically, the saloon has been part of downtown’s walkable bar scene, a vibrant nightlife tradition that has long been an important component of Nevada City’s economy.
Ray Dallugge named his establishment after an MC dubbed him Chief Crazy Horse for the buckskin outfit and headdress he was wearing during the 1964 Fourth of July parade. For years, the bar was decorated with Dallugge’s collection of Native American artifacts. From the earliest days, the Chief Crazy Horse was known for live music beginning with Dixieland Jazz, evolving to jazz and folk during the late ‘60s and ‘70s followed by rock during the late ‘70s and ‘80s.
Vince Dallugge took over managing the bar for his father in 1988. During the 90s, Chief Crazy Horse was known as a nightclub and discotheque with fog machines, a DJ booth, light shows and high-energy dance music.
Ray Dallugge died in 2006. Vince leased the building later that year. The economic downturn proved problematic for the tenant and Vince Dallugge decided to come back to the family building in 2010 with something radically and controversially different – a soft serve yogurt shop.
Response was mixed for the move with some expressing disapproval, even going so far as to suggest that Ray Dallugge was rolling over in his grave.
Rather than “sit on a sinking ship,” Vince Dallugge closed the yogurt shop last spring. He says the local population has made it clear that they want a nightclub in the space.
“How can I stand in the way of destiny like that? It’s the bar that can’t be killed,” he said.
Dallugge says he is impressed by the business plan and expertise of his newest tenants and believes a turn around in the economy will only add to their success.
“I think that their formula is sound and their experience is great,” he said.
Saxton has lived in Nevada City for the past year, and she and Dondero are both attracted to the town’s charm, “home vibe,” history and sense of community. It’s a setting they want to commit to for years to come.
“It just feels really good here. It’s a place you can set your roots and feel comfortable,” Dondero said.
Contact reporter Laura Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or 401-4877.1