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West Valley City • The country nightclub Jason Hook owns and runs is not the one his grandpa ran 40 years ago.
"It's not just cowboys and cowgirls anymore," Hook said of the club's clientele. "It's a mix of everybody from people who used come here back in the '70s and '80s, who still come here, to the 21- to 30-year-old college kids, single people and lots of couples."
Hook bought the Westerner Club, 3360 S. Redwood Road in West Valley City, from his father four years ago. The business, which was also owned by his grandfather, has been in the family more than 40 years.
"I've always had an interest in the business," said Hook, 30, who remembers spending lots of his time at the club while growing up."I live, eat and breathe this place."
Business had slowed down when Hook decided to take over. On a mission to get the place hopping once again, he has spent the past four years marketing and updating his business, all while trying to keep the club's country-western identity intact.
The process began with redoing the club's 20-year-old interior. The rebuilding has included replacing furniture and redoing floors. A 2,700-square-foot patio with fire pits was added for smokers. Additional serving stations were built to improve customer service.
The club offers free pool, free mechanical bull riding and an enclosed karaoke room. There is live country music on Fridays and Saturdays. In between sets, a DJ takes requests and plays a variety of music styles.
"We realize that everybody likes a little of everything these days. We do play a little of hip-hop and rock throughout the night," Hook said.
The inclusion of other music genres is perhaps what has generated the most criticism from the customers.
"But a lot of them understand that our crowd is so diverse and we get so many different people here," Hook added. "I've changed things a little bit to kind of get the customer base built back up."
On a recent Saturday night at the club, a country band played onstage as the place began to fill. The crowd was just as Hook describes it diverse.
TC Danel from Salt Lake City sat on the patio talking to friends. A regular when she was in her 20s, Danel said she recently returned to the club after several years away. The first thing she noticed was the crowd was much younger. What hadn't changed was the atmosphere of the place.
"It's upbeat and it keeps you going all night," said Danel, adding that the changes at the club are a way to keep up with the times.
The atmosphere is what has kept Jacob Cubbage, a bullfighter from Evanston, Wyo., coming back twice a month.
He said he enjoys the country music and laid-back vibe. "It's good times," Cubbage said, adding that he doesn't mind the variety of the music.
Others like Robbie Lyon, of Park City, would like the club to stay what it has always been, a country-music venue.
"It's the only bar or club in Salt Lake City and Park City where you can get the country style," Lyon said. "We enjoy that country music atmosphere. It's where we come for it."
Lyon also described the club as welcoming, a place where you can find a 70-year-old and a 21-year-old drinking together.
Robert Franz, a regular for the past 10 years, also described the Westerner as a welcoming, friendly and accepting place. He remembered the club being "a lot more honky-tonk" back in the day, and becoming more modern and more attuned to the average person in recent years.
"It's hard to keep it a country-western club. I'd like to see it stay that way, but I understand the changes," Franz said.
Franz and some of his friends have ventured to the Westerner for many years to dance.
The club has a 2,800-square-foot raised wood dance floor, one of the main attractions for line and swing dancers.
"[My grandpa] would like what I've done," Hook said. "I'll never get rid of this place. I grew up here. This place is like home."
Business has gone from the lowest in its history in 2009 to 30 percent to 40 percent up this year, Hook said.
O Check Friday's Mix section for The Tribune's drink guide, listing 50 of our favorite bars and clubs, and visit our new daily entertainment website, nowsaltlake.com.
Location • 3360 S. Redwood Road, West Valley City
Hours • Wednesday through Saturday, 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.