I point to my friend’s cocktail, a concoction of pecan whisky and ginger ale that tasted, in fact, just like pie and went down quite easily considering I’ve never much cared for whisky. That said, I’ve never much cared for country music either, and so had little expectation I’d find Flaming Saddles to be much of a good time. Yet, here I am.
Housed in what had been the once popular Eleven nightclub, Flaming Saddles is West Hollywood’s newest and first-ever Country Western bar — a fact that will be celebrated on Wednesday, January 28, 2015 with an official city proclamation and a grand opening party with openly gay country star Billy Gilman on hand to shake things up.
Yes, gone are the former nightclub’s austere concrete floors and tiled walls, eschewed for the down-home warmth of wood planking and red-flocked wallpaper. Some bales of hay sat are stacked on a mezzanine above the entrance. Other additions include a fully digital jukebox and a menu of honky-tonk fixins like Frito Pie and Texas Chili. The only thing missing is a smattering of sawdust on the floor.
“We just opened the bar we wanted to open,” remarks Jacqui Squatriglia, who co-owns Flaming Saddles with her partner, Chris Barnes. “For 10 years, this has been my dream.”
Barnes adds: “After a year of dating, I asked Jacqui, ‘do you want to have kids or do you want to have fun?’ And, she said, ‘I want to have fun. In fact, I want to open a gay country western bar.’ So, I said, ‘If you name it Flaming Saddles, I’m in.’ ”
“Our bar is built on customer service,” Barnes explains. “We train our bartenders not to wait for a customer to ask for a drink but to approach them first. Look, everyone in town has a bottle of Jack Daniels behind the bar, it’s who’s pouring it that makes the difference.”
Neither Barnes nor Squatriglia are strangers to entertainment or the bar scene. Besides ballroom dancing parents and Rockettes for sisters, Barnes has appeared as an actor on Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and other shows as well as created and DJ-ed Gay Country Western Line Dancing Nights as the entertainment director of Mount Airy Lodge Casino Resort. Squatriglia, who has worked as bartender since the age of 17, had also been the manager and choreographer of the famed bar top dancing girls of Manhattan’s Coyote Ugly Saloon prior to opening the original Flaming Saddles in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen (West Hollywood is the second outpost).
“I’ve choreographed hundreds of girls, and they’re great,” Squatriglia says. “But, my dances are athletic and I really wanted to see boys do them.”
As if on cue, the cowboy boot-clad staff jumped up on the bar and launched into a raucous, choreographed rendition of “Wild, Wild West.” Everyone in the room perked up, clapping along and bouncing to the music. Despite my doubts coming in, it’s very hard to be a stick in the mud with this many people having fun around you. Another Piehole, please.
Flaming Saddles is located at 8811 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069. For more information, visit FlamingSaddles.com