The sign is the same - the cowboy boot alongside the name Bootleggers.
However, it surprised many people when that sign popped up on South Reynolds Road last week, rather than its customary Byrne Road spot.
Strangely enough, planning for the new downtown sports arena has affected Toledo's country music scene. Club Bijou, owned by the same man who owns Bootleggers, Kip Diacou, is one of the buildings scheduled to be demolished to make way for the arena. As a result, Diacou is moving that club to Byrne Road, and Bootleggers moves into the former Prime Time at 2518 South Reynolds Road. The building used to house Nashville's years ago.
"I think it's great. This building's a lot more innovative, it's decorated to a 'T.' It's much more of a country atmosphere," Bootleggers manager John Kwiatkowski said. Flat-screen TVs ring the perimeter of the inside of the building. The stage is a little bit smaller than the Byrne Road location, but the dance floor is spacious.
The bar's days of operation continue to be Wednesday-Saturday. Line-dance classes are Wednesday nights. College ID and 25-cent draft are Thursday, and various drink specials are Friday and Saturday nights.
Bandera, once again, is the house band. It's the same band that's been a fixture in Toledo for years. Lead vocalist Doyle Stubleski is the same old Doyle, just a little more tired after the recent birth of his son, Carter Kristopher.
If anything, the new venue is a better fit for country music fans. It's a little more intimate, seating 450 as opposed to the 850 at the old location. The smaller but more modern building absorbs and distributes the music more effectively.
"I want people to know that anyone can come here. Bandera isn't just a country band, they play a variety of music," Kwiatkowski said.
"Don't think you can't come because you can't line dance. If they want to learn, they can take line-dance classes. If they don't know how to dance, they can still come out and they'll hear country and anything from Bon Jovi to 'Run Around Sue.'"
It's been about 18 months since one of Toledo's country bands, Branded, disbanded. Band leader Rick Spitler has reorganized with a couple of new players. The group, now called Roped & Branded, consists of lead vocalist Lisa Wilbur, Spitler on drums, vocalist and rhythm guitar player Kyle McKay, Rick Thomas on lead guitar and steel, Pete Heydinger on bass, and Joe Munier on keyboards.
Don't forget about the 27th annual Country Concert, which begins Thursday in Fort Loramie, Ohio. Headliners include Trace Adkins, Big & Rich, Gretchen Wilson, Toby Keith, and Neal McCoy. Go to www.countryconcert.com for a complete lineup and ticket information. To find out about Keith's new album and his thoughts on being continually overlooked by the industry's awards shows, read tomorrow's Blade.
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