For the past 15 years, Red Brick Bar & Grill owners Steve Backus and Ed Samo have served as pillars within the downtown Turlock business community, evolving what began as a catering service into one of the most popular nightlife destinations in the Central Valley. At the end of this month, however, bar goers will have to say farewell as the turntables will stop spinning and Red Brick closes its doors for good.
Backus and Samo’s longtime Turlock business first started out as On Broadway with Two Guys Catering in 2004, located across the street from City Hall on the corner of South Broadway and A Street. Three years later, the duo converted one of the catering hall’s banquet rooms and its connecting parking lot into a bar and patio, which for two more years served as a venue for weddings and other special occasions.
Following the recession, Backus and Samo decided to shift the space into a bar and restaurant atmosphere and Red Brick was born, kicking off an exciting decade that would eventually attract visitors to Turlock by the thousands over the years. On June 30, the two owners will close the door on an era as their building’s lease expires, bringing an end to a dream that started out small, but ended up becoming one of the downtown core’s biggest success stories.
“Steve and I originally wanted a ‘Cheers’-type place,” Samo said, referring to the cozy bar from the hit ‘80s TV show.
Red Brick started out as such, featuring not the DJs that provide music for the bar’s dance floor today, but a small jukebox in the corner. Despite its modest beginnings, the bar and restaurant quickly became popular. Samo’s brother, who used to oversee successful nightclubs in Las Vegas, soon suggested Red Brick toss the jukebox and trade it for a DJ.
“It almost seemed like overnight, from one weekend to the next, we went from 100 people to 300 people in the place,” Samo said. “The DJs came in and it just evolved from there.”
Red Brick in 2019 is as close to Vegas as you’ll find in the county, Backus said, thanks to the space’s amenities like bottle service, VIP booths, hookah and a full-scale taco bar. The outdoor patio may be the bar’s biggest draw, he added, with nearly 800 people making their way to Red Brick every weekend.
“There’s no other place between Sacramento and Bakersfield that has a venue like this,” Backus said. “We spent a lot of years to hone it in to where it’s at now, how safe it is and how everyone enjoys being here.”
Soon, the venue will become a part of Calvary Baptist Church, which purchased the building about five years ago, Backus and Samo said. The church moved into Red Brick’s catering side, Two Guys, in 2013, and after some growth Calvary Baptist needs the rest of the space for an expansion.
“They will not let us stay; they’re growing,” Samo said. “They’ve been good landlords; we’ve been good tenants and we don’t have any ill feeling towards them.”
Backus and Samo said that prior to Calvary’s purchase of the building, they had financial backing and attempted to buy the space, but the owners at the time weren’t interested in selling. When the building went up for sale some time later, it was out of their price range.
“We thought the value of the building was way less than what the asking price was,” Samo said, sharing that the sellers wanted over $1 million. “It was out of our price range.”
Looking back, Backus and Samo wondered if it would have been worth it to gather enough backing to purchase the building when it went up for sale.
“Yes and no,” Backus said. “But it probably would have been a good thing.”
As they reminisced on Red Brick’s tenure in downtown Turlock, the two reflected fondly on the baptism celebrations, bachelor parties, baby showers and other happy moments residents from Turlock, its surrounding cities and even areas like San Francisco and Monterey shared under the bar and restaurant’s roof. They can’t even count how many married couples they know who met at Red Brick, they said, and will miss friends sending their sons and daughters to the business for 21st birthday celebrations because they know it’s a safe place to go.
Most of all, they’ll miss the culture they created as a downtown beacon for those in search of a good time — no matter who they are.
“A thing we’ve always prided ourselves on, is where else could you get every nationality, race, color, creed, sexual orientation and everybody gets along?” Samo said. “I’m going to miss it, and I think I’m going to miss it more so because of all the people we’ve met over the years.”
Red Brick will lay off about 25 employees, Backus said. He added that the City of Ceres has approached the pair about potentially relocating to their on-the-rise downtown area, but to no avail. Backus will soon open another catering business venture, Cuisine Catering, and oversee operations at Merced bar and restaurant The Hangar BBQ during their “after dark” events on the weekends.
Samo will continue working part-time for the City of Turlock, he said, though opening another bar isn’t entirely out of the question.
“Who knows?” he said.
The last night to dance at Red Brick will be June 29. Backus and Samo are asking that everyone wear the namesake color of the bar and restaurant for a “red out,” which will see all four DJs providing music inside on the dance floor as well as on the patio. Reservations will be taken until 11 p.m., Backus said.
“Come early, because there will be lines,” he said. “It’s our last farewell.”