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Heating up the night
Downtown businesses stay open later, offer more options
Red Brick pic1
The owners and patrons of Red Brick Caf celebrate the Turlock Planning Commissions decision on Thursday to allow the downtown restaurant to stay open until 1:30 a.m. and have live entertainment. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER / The Journal

 A group of people gathered at the Red Brick Café Thursday night to celebrate a victory. Their favorite downtown Turlock night spot had just received approval from the Planning Commission to extend their hours of business from a closing time of 12 midnight, to 1:30 a.m.

While the revelers raised their glasses in cheer, the café’s regular Thursday night dinner and karaoke crowd started to drift in. Many of those people had just come from the newly opened Dust Bowl Brewery Tap Room just down the street.

Later on in the evening, a few of those at Red Brick made their way down Main Street to see what was happening at the Vintage Lounge, and then onto Wellington’s.

While groups of friends spending the night out on the town is a common sight in San Francisco, San Jose and even Modesto, this is a relatively new thing for Turlock — and especially the Westside of downtown.

“I think it’s good for Turlock and the downtown area, because it’s been dead on the Westside of Main Street,” said Dan Gray, owner of the Vintage Lounge. “I think it’ll pick up the whole area. It’s good for everybody.”

When Gray — who also owns Center Street Grill — opened the Vintage Lounge in January 2009, it was the only late night business on the Westside of Main Street. He had to contend with drawing customers to a mostly shuttered downtown area and assuage community fears about the opening of another bar.

The public safety problems did not materialize and a year after opening, the Vintage Lounge received permission to extend their operating hours from a closing time of 12 midnight to 1:30 a.m.

“We haven’t had any problems. Maybe we made it easier for others to come in,” Gray said.

Soon after Vintage Lounge opened its doors in 2009, Two Guys Catering received a Conditional Use Permit to open a restaurant in a section of its banquet hall facility. Since then owners Steve Backus and Ed Samo have seen their café business grow, with an increase in demand for late night entertainment options.

“Basically, we send 100, 150 people out the door to go someplace else,” Backus said about why Red Brick Café sought to extend their late night hours.

The café not only received permission to extend its hours, but to also have live entertainment until 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

“Having more entertainment downtown draws more people from the area,” Backus said. “We can showcase downtown.”

More late night entertainment is a need that some residents are glad to see finally being met.

“We’re local merchants and we like to keep it local,” said Red Brick Café patron Kristin Naranjo. “It means more options for everybody.”

Gray, Backus and Samo were all glad to see the Dust Bowl Tap Room open its doors.

“It will enhance downtown and give people more options,” Backus said.

Since it opened its doors on Tuesday, the tap room has had capacity crowds every night.

“It’s nonstop and we love it,” said Dust Bowl owner Brett Tate.

The tap room has limited hours Monday through Thursday — 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. — and longer hours on Fridays and Saturdays — 11 a.m. to 12 midnight. They are also open Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Tate said he and his co-owners thought starting out slow was the best thing to do.

“We didn’t want to bite off more than we can chew at the beginning,” he said.

Tate agrees with the owners of Vintage Lounge and Red Brick about the late night offerings in downtown Turlock.

“Any activity downtown is going to help other businesses, just being able to survive and thrive in this economy,” he said.

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.