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From Valencia Club "owner" to busted

Landmark Penryn bar re-opened illegally, without owner's knowledge; "Proprietor” now behind bars
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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PENRYN – The landmark Valencia Club is closed again and the man who claimed to own it is behind bars today facing charges of selling liquor without a license. Travis Kevie’s four-day career as proprietor of the historic bar came to a crashing end after the Valencia Club’s property manager and then the Placer County Sheriff’s Department learned through an Auburn Journal report that the establishment had re-opened. A few short hours later, Kevie, a 29-year-old rodeo bull rider who grew up in Newcastle, was being led away from the Taylor Road bar in handcuffs. Reno’s Len Travis, property manager for the owner, said he had no idea Kevie was continuing to perpetuate what turned out to be a well-structured hoax inside the Valencia Club. Kevie had been part of a cleanup crew after the previous bar owner – the DJPR partnership of Roseville – abandoned the business in early June, Travis said. DJPR had owned the Valencia Club bar and liquor license for the five previous years. The owner of the building and 1¼-acre property is Kenneth Stimson of Marina Del Rey. Travis said he had a surprise encounter with Kevie last week when he dropped by to check on what he thought was a vacant building. “I opened up the doors and he was already inside,” Travis said. “I said, ‘What are you doing here?’ and he said he was here finishing cleaning up. He had done a pretty good job.” Travis said he gave Kevie some instructions on what else needed cleaning and left Kevie there. Travis said he thought Kevie was still employed by DJPR. “I came back on the weekend and not only was he still here but he had an ‘open’ sign,” Travis said. “I thought it was a joke and told him, ‘You can’t do that.’” Kevie told him it wouldn’t happen again, he said. “I told him that if it did happen again, he shouldn’t come around here again,” Travis said. Travis, who is called by his last name, had put up signs after the Valencia Club closed following Memorial Day giving his “Travis” name and phone number – perpetuating the impression that the other Travis – Travis Kevie – was a legitimate bar owner. Kevie took advantage of a situation that left him free over four days to pass himself off as the new owner and serve beer and other alcoholic beverages to customers thirsty for a reopening of the club. It has been open in Penryn since at least the 1930s and the closing was the first time in recent memory it had been shuttered. The Journal visited the bar twice on Monday, taking photos of Kevie and watching customers interact with him as he tended bar, talked about the re-opening of the Valencia Club and shared his vision for the future. He said final paperwork had still not been worked out. Isaiah Strode stopped at the club Monday and dropped off a resume, talking hopefully with Kevie. He’d worked at the bar for three years until last April. Strode returned today to follow up on his initial visit. “Oh wow,” Strode said, when informed Kevie was being held at the Placer County Jail on charges related to the hoax. “That’s scary,” Strode said. “And it’s also gutsy.” Sheriff’s Detective Jim Hudson said he saw Kevie’s photo in today's Journal and immediately became suspicious of someone he’s known through his law-enforcement work. “There’s no way a license can happen that fast,” Hudson added. After questioning inside the bar, Kevie was led away in handcuffs. Hudson said Kevie is facing a felony count of selling alcohol without a license. An investigation into the illegal bar opening will continue with other charges possible, he said, adding that the bar stayed open until midnight Monday. “I was caught off guard as soon as I saw the paper,” Hudson said. “The Auburn Journal solved this case.” Before his arrest, Kevie said his short time as pseudo-owner of a much-loved bar was a good one. “I did just what my heart desired – it’s how it goes,” Kevie said. While Kevie’s story about owning the bar was untrue, other aspects of his life have checked out. Journal files and Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association online records show he has been a successful rodeo cowboy, winning the bullriding competition at the 2006 Wild West Stampede in Auburn and competing since his high school days, when he was a state champion bronc rider. Kevie grew up in Newcastle, attended local schools and fetched golf balls for Home on the Range practice range owner Phil Green. Green said he hadn’t seen Kevie in more than 10 years until a day last week when he saw a sheriff’s cruiser pull over and let a man out carrying duffel bags. A few minutes later, Kevie walked in. As Green explained it, Kevie wanted to pick up where he’d left off more than a decade ago – picking up golf balls and then driving them on the range. “He was homeless and you could tell he was in a destitute place,” Green said. For the next three days, Kevie returned to do the same thing in the afternoon, even picking up a string trimmer to help cut grass. Green said Kevie told him he had slept in a friend’s barn at night. By Thursday, Kevie had made plans to go to the Salinas rodeo but returned to Home on the Range on Friday and said he was staying at the Valencia Club. Green said he didn’t hear from Kevie after that last visit and was shocked to see Tuesday’s Journal report. “I thought maybe he had won the lottery,” Green said. After the story was published, Kevie’s ruse unraveled quickly, leaving Green wondering what motivated him to attempt it. “He’s a good embellisher,” Green said. “He’s a hardworking kid but it’s on his terms. My guess he was homeless and just trying to do something.”