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Western-themed bar draws in more than country fans

Honky Tonk cowboys weren’t the only group dancers who filled AZ Country USA’s dance floor Saturday night, as sports fanatics and some college students joined in the two-step. AZ Country USA, a Western themed restaurant, sports bar and venue owned by three partners, opened about two months ago. A Home Depot that went out of business previously occupied the space. “I felt that there was a niche to do something country with a sports bar. With the East Valley being the country capital of Arizona, we just made some adjustments,” said Brian Weymouth, 52, managing partner, former ASU baseball player and creator of Cooperstown in Downtown Phoenix. Cooperstown, the sports bar and restaurant located inside of AZ Country USA features video games, pool tables, and several flat-screen TVs where customers can pick what game they’d like to watch. The club portion of the bar includes a huge live stage area, another bar and the largest floating hardwood dance floor in the area. Inside of the venue area there are also two small VIP sections, where bottle service is available and business meetings can be held. The bar also offers country dance lessons Mondays Wednesdays and Saturdays. “This is the place where people want to come and dance. The place where they’ll have the most fun with their boots on.” said Tobin. AZ Country USA has over 50 employees, many of them either still in school or working at the bar as their second job. Employee’s said the bar provides a great atmosphere that fun to work in. “This is my first job and I love it so much. Everyone at school always complains about their job, but not me,” said Liz Oenick, 18, hostess and senior at Highland High School. “I have the best time here, plus everyone is so nice and funny.” Since the bar opened only two short months ago, owners claim that business began to pick up in late August when school began. “I kind of know the sports bar business, you could say, and my partner knows the music aspect of it, overall business has been great,” Weymouth said. Customer Steve Cronk, 38, who works in finance, said he couldn’t agree more and believes that the bar provides the best customer service he’s had in a long time. Owners and employees also believe that a large portion of this new found business is coming from their promotional nights as well. Brandon Miles, 28, promotional partner, explained how Wednesday, which is their new promotional ladies night, is very busy for them due to the bar’s 25 cent beer specials. He said the bar also plans on creating a college night every Thursday featuring free admission for students with student I.D. and 50 cent drinks till 10 pm. “This place has a lot to offer, we took a risky move, but it’s worth it. Our specials are definitely drawing in the crowd,” said Nicole Soultaire, 28, bartender. Although the restaurant industry has low success rates right now, Weymouth said now is a good of time then ever, and by using a previously occupied space, the he believes they saved a great amount of money. “With the economy the way it is it’s always unnerving opening up such a large establishment,” said Tobin. “But these partners know what they are doing and understand the fine detailing that many other owners don’t.” While the economy may not be changing any time soon, owners agree that opening the bar at this time was a smart move for them. “Like anything else in a recession, you got to work a little harder, be a little smarter and have a lot of marketing,” Weymouth said. The restaurant, bar and venue is located is on the southwest corner of Southern Avenue and Country Club Drive. The 30,000-square-foot space can fit more than 2,300 people and features live country music shows, dance lessons and sports games. “I came in for the Nebraska game, I’m a huge sports fan and heard that this great place to get good food and watch the game,” said Kerrie Drape, 28, graphic and web designer. “I live kind of far, but I can guarantee I’ll come back again.” By not enforcing a strict dress code, owners of AZ Country USA believe in creating a fun and relaxed environment for their customers. While the bar has been compared to Toby Keith’s Bar & Grill in Mesa and Whiskey River Saloon in Phoenix, customers believe that AZ Country USA has a more personable atmosphere that appeals to both students and adults of all ages. “We’re the true western bar when it comes down to it,” said Mike Tobin, 24, assistant general supervisor.

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