Bars in NC, GV get new owners |

Bars in NC, GV get new owners

John Hart
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

June and Richard McKenzie have lived in Nevada City for 38 years, but visited Cooper’s Saloon just twice before last Thursday.

That day, June walked casually into the Commercial Street bar, warmly greeted the staff and asked them their names. As the new co-owner, she now has a special interest in the business.

Until late last year, the McKenzies, both in their mid-70s, never imagined they would own a bar. The couple started negotiations after Christmas to buy the property and building as an investment for their R. and J. McKenzie Properties Inc.

It’s hard to get a word in when June, Richard and their son Rick McKenzie, who will manage Cooper’s, get together – they’re chatting and laughing about the family businesses, which include the Two Room Inn a block away on Broad Street.

The McKenzies brought the bed-and-breakfast two years ago from Tim Smith, who is now selling them Cooper’s.

“It wasn’t intentional to sell the McKenzies both businesses,” Smith said Friday. “It just happened that way.”

He’s happy they’re the buyers, though.

“I like what they did with the Two Room Inn, continuing my concept and adding their own improvements,” Smith said. “I’m kind of proud of what I did with Cooper’s – developing a nice place for people to enjoy. I look forward to how the McKenzies will carry on with it.”

Rick McKenzie, 52, says he steps into an already well-established business.

“With a lot of businesses in Nevada County, you have to sweat bullets. We just have to tweak Cooper’s and have fun,” he said. He has run restaurants in Nevada County, the Bay Area and Hawaii since 1972.

For the past five years, he has operated Command Performance Catering, a full-time business in Nevada County. The last time Rick ran a bar was 20 years ago in Hawaii.

“It’s been awhile since I’ve been in the bar business,” he said. “I’d like to keep the atmosphere here. The key is entertainment and music, so it’s not just a bar. We want to add alternative music for the younger crowd.”

Rick hired Nevada City musician Mikail Graham to line up more live music every week. Graham has previously booked performers at Cooper’s and for community events such as Summer Nights in Nevada City.

“We want to offer a variety of music with an emphasis on local groups,” Graham said, “including jazz on Wednesdays, Cooper’s Live on Thursdays and quality dance-music bands Fridays and Saturdays.”

June and Richard McKenzie, who are now retired and travel abroad extensively, plan on being silent owners at Cooper’s.

“I plan on coming in from time to time to hear the music; I plan on hearing the Humperheads the last weekend in March,” said June, tongue-in-cheek, as Graham sat across from her. Graham is the Nevada County band’s guitarist.

Since Feb. 1, there’s also a new owner – albeit a tired owner – working seven days a week at the Nevada Club.

Every day this month, owner Hardy Saffold has traveled from his Fair Oaks home to work 12 hours, which includes cleaning, sorting out accumulated items and bartending at the Grass Valley bar on Main Street.

For now, it’s just his mother, wife and himself keeping the doors open daily from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

This is the first time Saffold, 40, has owned a bar, but he welcomes the hard work.

“I’ve always wanted a bar – my mother was in the bar business for 20 years,” he said. “I saw the bar listed in the paper; it was in my price range and located in a town not too small and not too big.”

He’s used to trying different ventures. Saffold was a commercial fishermen at Bodega Bay for 10 years and has operated a tractor business for 20 years.

Besides extending the club’s hours, Saffold hopes to include classic rock and country rock bands on the weekends. The previous lineup was comprised of blues bands.

“I want to still keep the blues. I like the blues, but I want to have more diversity for all age groups,” Saffold said Friday.

Every Thursday, starting March 14, Saffold will also invite new bands of all genres to perform.

Bands wishing to have a 30- to 60-minute set on Thursdays can call Saffold at 274-0947 to reserve a slot.

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