A mechanical bull that people flock to for a one-minute, adrenaline-filled ride. Line-dancing lessons on a 3,000-square-foot dance floor with music blaring. Live cover bands that pack a bar stuffed full of country and rock fans alike.
Could this be in Nashville, Tennessee, Houston, maybe Denver?
Nope. Actually, it’s in Watchung.
The Colorado Café, which offers a modern take on the classic experience of country in a state not exactly known for cowboy hats and bull-riding, is “not like anywhere else around here,” said Alan Bauerle, general manager.
The same can be said for when the Café was founded 22 years ago by Bauerle and partners. “We wanted to open a bar, restaurant and entertainment complex that was different than anything else in the area,” he said. “Country music was growing in popularity and as we looked at different locations, we found this 13,000 square-foot banquet house on seven acres of property in a high-income area.”
Clearly, the Café struck a whip for the 2,500 people that visit weekly.
Lindsey Irwin of Roxbury, who visited the Café last winter, said, “I liked the Colorado Cafe because the atmosphere is different than the majority of bars around New Jersey that I’ve been to. There aren’t many Western-style places on the East Coast so it is nice to do something different.”
Irwin, who has visited bars in Denver and Park City, Utah, said that she thinks the Colorado Cafe does a good job at bringing the Western-feel people would experience if they visited the true west.
Even though the Colorado Café mimics a country experience, it’s unique in the fact that many venues in the Midwest don’t have a 3,000-square-foot dance floor, which presents the opportunity for line and couple dancing classes, which take place on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at the beginner, intermediate and advanced levels from 4 to 7 p.m.
Plus, line dancing in the Midwest tends to be two-step line dancing, while the Colorado Café teaches choreographed line dancing that ventures from Garth Brooks to Lady Gaga.
“There’s so many things to do with country and now the stars aren’t the Garth Brooks of the ‘90s – they’re much more pop,” said Bauerle. “We are the enhanced experience of a classic experience of country. We try to embrace everyone’s taste in music.”
The line dancing classes, taught by about half a dozen instructors, garner 75 to 125 people each night of the sessions, which are included in the Café’s cover charge – $5 on Wednesday and Sundays and $10 on Saturdays.
Besides the line dancing classes, another huge pull of the Colorado Café is its mechanical bull, Buck Off, who is the only mechanical bull inside a venue in the state. All riders must be at least 21-years-old on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays (and 18-years-old on Sundays), less than 240 pounds and must sign a waiver. However, Bauerle said the bull is very safe and the intent is to entertain people and create a show, not to create an impossible challenge.
“We’re not looking to throw someone off in eight seconds,” said Bauerle. “We want people, if they’re up for it, to stay on the bull for a minute or so and get a fun video taken by their friends.”
The operator adjusts the bucking and spinning mechanism depending on the rider’s comfort level and his judgment.
Rock and country cover bands also head to the Colorado Café on Saturday nights, including country cover band Big Hix and rock cover bands Blame it on Richie, the Guy Smiley Band and Mr. LoveJoy. On Friday nights, the Colorado Café is an open dance floor of top 40 hits. Karaoke also takes place on Friday and Sunday nights.
The restaurant at the Café serves American fare bar food such as with finger food appetizers, half-pound burgers, pizza and wrap sandwiches. It is a 21-year-old and older venue.
The Colorado Café is also a host to weddings and other parties, all in country-style, of course.
“We wrap everything up and we’re not just this standard banquet-style place to go to,” said Bauerle. “This is a fun venue in a country theme.”
THE COLORADO CAFE
Where: 154 Bonnie Burn Rd., Watchung
Contact: Call 908-322-7200 or visit coloradocafe.com
Offerings: Line dancing classes, dancing workshops, mechanical bull rides, full bar and restaurant, banquet-style events