Penryn’s landmark Valencia Club back in business

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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PENRYN – The storied Valencia Club has a new lease on life thanks to new owners who are intent on retaining its timeless appeal. Freshly painted and cleaned to a sparkle, the bar and new café are slated to reopen Wednesday, 5½ months after the local landmark’s doors were shuttered. The establishment was initially opened in the 1930s, first as the Hill Top Café. Its distinctive neon Valencia Club sign was added in the early 1950s. Through more than 70 years it had never closed and the decision by the business’ previous owners left a void in the life of the tiny, rural community centered around the Taylor and English Colony crossroads. New Valencia Club owners Matt Madsen and Jamie James plan to open the Valencia Club bar and café Wednesday. They’re hoping a combination of good food, friendly bar and historic location will be a winning one. “When we first came into this place, it was a total dump,” Madsen said. “But we saw something.” The long-standing business they’ve reopened has always had a place in the hearts of locals and many of the motorists that drive what was once Highway 40 and part of the route over the Sierra. This past August, the national media spotlight shone on the Valencia Club when a homeless, bullriding cowboy managed to bamboozle customers for four days into believing he owned the shutdown bar. Travis Kevie, 29, was able to make a profit serving drinks and a trumped up ownership story to customers elated to see the bar back in business. Kevie was eventually arrested and served a short term in jail for the illegal ruse as bloggers trumpeted his entrepreneurial initiative. Madsen and James said they heard the stories about the outlaw barkeep and have put the call out to some of his friends to contact Kevie. A court order keeps Kevie away from the Valencia Club unless he’s lawfully employed there and the couple say they would consider having him over as a temporary employee to allow him to make an appearance. The two, parents of an infant daughter, are making an initial plunge into owning their own business, aided by a small inheritance from Matt’s father, and the guiding hand of new Valencia manager Mindy Golightly. Both Madsen and James work in dental careers. Over the past couple of months, the two have worked to clean up the building and grounds, adding a fresh coat of paint to practically all surfaces while trying to maintain the rustic appeal of a bar and café near and dear to the hearts of locals and visitors. “It’s been cool to see people pull up and tell us that a particular bar stool was theirs back in the day,” James said. “It was a total shame to see it closed down.” Late Monday, Golightly was busy working with new bar and café staff as the establishment moved toward a Wednesday opening. She’s worked and managed Placer County and Sacramento-area bars for two decades. Bar hours will be 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday to Friday and 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. weekends. The cafe will be putting an emphasis on family-friendly appetizers, burgers and sandwiches under $10. “We’re definitely here to cater to the community,” Golightly said. “We’ll do special events and have already booked one for a party of 60.” The glow of the big neon “Valencia Club” sign will also beckon music lovers, with deejay dancing on Thursdays and live music – from country to classic rock to rockabilly – on Fridays and Saturdays. The Valencia Club also features horseshoe pits and a games room, with electronic darts, air hockey and pool. On Sundays, blues artist Steve Foster will be overseeing blues jams from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.