COEUR d'ALENE - Moose Lounge owner Dave Pulis and company are chasing a niche in the market they can't believe hasn't yet been tapped in the heart of North Idaho.
Wine bars, biker bars, sports bars, even high-end locales with fancy appetizers dot Coeur d'Alene's dining and drinking landscape - not that there's anything wrong with that.
But something, Pulis said Monday, has always seemed to be missing.
The biggest city in the otherwise rural Idaho Panhandle doesn't have a kick-your-heels-up kind of country music bar. Not a bar that hangs a poster of John Wayne and calls itself the Wild, Wild West, but a good ol' fashioned country bar with a music stage, dance floor and a casual atmosphere where you eat "peanuts and popcorn and throw your shells on the floor."
"I just felt the Coeur d'Alene market was perfect for country," said Pulis, touring the 5,500-square foot-building Monday, formerly home to the Rendezvous night club, that will house the new live music hall, The Country Club. "There are a lot of country music fans here."
Pulis, Mike Lyon and Jack Tawney purchased the building, 216 E. Coeur d'Alene Ave., from the Rendezvous owners, and the deal closed last week. Pulis and Lyon are co-owners of the Moose Lounge in downtown Coeur d'Alene, but their new venture won't be tied to the popular Sherman Avenue watering hole. In fact, the Moose owners are working on extending their lease there when it expires in four years.
But the new business could open by mid-April, after renovations and the liquor license transfers. The Country Club, as its name suggests, will be all country. A 15-foot-by-19-foot stage will be set up in the northeast corner of the building so country artists can do their thing, while a dance floor will be set up in the center so dancers can do theirs.
"It's going to be a fun venue," Pulis said, as workers gutted the inside of the building. "It's going to be a lot more targeted to North Idaho."
The non-smoking bar will offer 20 beers on tap, employ around 20 people, have pool tables but not a kitchen for at least the first year. It will keep the decor in tune with its country theme, and add lighting from, guess what, wagon wheel lights in spots. Nothing too gimmicky like a mechanical bull, Pulis said, but cowhides on the wall and barn wood wainscoting will lend it flair. And six Makie speakers will give country singers the sound system to fill the hall with twang and acoustics. Local and regional acts will be a staple, but the goal will be eventually attracting national country names. Weekend acts will come with a cover charge.
"It's definitely going to be country," Pulis said.
The Rendezvous night club owners couldn't be reached for comment Monday. The website, LoveCdA.com, reported the nightclub closed after the sale and said the bar may open again if owners find a suitable new location.
The Rendezvous night club was a bikini bar that took over ownership from the Torch Lounge, which caused a stir around town when it opened in the spring of 2003. Several high-profile crimes occurred at or outside the bikini bar, including a recent stabbing that resulted in an attempted murder charge in 1st District Court for Jeremy D. Lyght of Post Falls.
As for country music, Pulis said he flirted with the idea of bringing a country bar to downtown Coeur d'Alene for more than three years.
It seemed like a perfect fit, he said. So much so, he figured others had to be thinking along the same lines.
"I am sort of surprised," he said, of not getting scooped on his idea. "I've been just dreading opening up the paper one day and seeing how somebody beat me to it."