Music club

Country music club Saddle Rack is closing its doors for good

Here’s something Bay Area cowboys and cowgirls never wanted to read:

The legendary country music club Saddle Rack is no more.

The announcement was made on Friday, via the popular bar’s social media:

“Dear Saddle Carrier family – it is with immense sadness that we have to announce that Saddle Carrier will not be reopening,” the post read.

The bar, which got its start in San Jose before moving to Fremont, is another victim of the coronavirus pandemic, which has thrown countless local businesses into major financial difficulties.

“Eight weeks ago, the Saddle Rack suspended operations in an effort to protect our guests and staff,” the statement read. “Today we have made the extremely difficult decision not to reopen.”

Thus ends one of the longest runs of any major South Bay nightlife spot. The Saddle Rack has been a beacon for country music fans since the mid-1970s, having weathered everything from the disco and New Wave onslaught to “Urban Cowboy” fashion and Garth mania. The club remained open when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009. Yet the one thing it couldn’t resist was COVID-19. Although efforts have certainly been made.

“The future of Saddle Rack and our industry is incredibly uncertain in these times,” the post read. “Over the past eight weeks, our leadership team has done its best to evolve our business in a way that remains true to our nearly 44-year-old heritage. We were unable to find a viable solution to reopen the Saddle Rack while keeping our family safe.

The Saddle Rack was more than just a bar for so many people. By Saturday afternoon, more than 1,600 people had posted memories and thanks on the club’s Facebook page, including many who had found love there.

“I met my line-dancing husband at the Saddle Rack in 1993,” Susanne Christmann-Renner said. “I like to say we met while dancing and his story is that he picked me up from a bar! Both so true! When we got married, at the reception, we hired dance teachers in line to teach and lead our guests. I’ve visited many times over the years and we were just talking about posting this thing called COVID, we were going to take classes again. We love you and all you’ve created in terms of many memories for your guests.

For many, the Bay Area’s country and western music bar scene will never be the same.

“I hosted literally hundreds of shows, vocal contests, Halloween and New Year’s Eve parties from 1983 to 1990 with KEEN radio, then from 1990 to 1997 with KSAN” at the Saddle Rack, wrote Jim Smith. “I’m sure it was a tough call.”

The club’s statement read: “We are deeply saddened to have to lose the place so many of us have called home over the past few years, but we are also extremely grateful to have created the relationship with all those who have passed through our doors. We guided each other through some of the best and worst times.

The Saddle Rack operated from the 1970s through the early 2000s in San Jose, before heading north to Fremont.

In 2017, longtime Mercury News columnist Scott Herhold called the club’s loss to San Jose one of the “worst local decisions of the past 50 years.”

Yes, wrote Herhold, it was certainly an “original choice” for his list. “But the loss of the Bay Area’s best-known country-western nightclub in 2001 dealt a blow to San Jose’s identity. Beneath the high-tech luster, San Jose’s roots are agricultural, one of reasons why the near west side nightclub was so incredibly popular.

“It is true that Saddle Rack owner Hank Guenther might have sold anyway. But with the passage of the Midtown Specific Plan in the 1990s, the city decreed that it provided housing for the neighborhood. The plan virtually made it unprofitable for Guenther – who died in a plane crash in 2002 – to stay in business with the Saddle Rack. Instead, he sold his property to KB Home. By preferring condos to the bucking bull, San Jose betrayed a lack of soul. The Saddle Rack has reopened in Fremont.

The club had operated in Fremont since 2003.