When Jana Quitiquit began working at Rookies Pub and Grill as a cocktail waitress, she had the luxury of a slow learning curve.
Back then, the bar scene was broken up into “seasons” and Quitiquit’s hiring date landed in between the busiest points on their calendar. She was warned of a “rush,” as if it were myth or legend.
“When I was hired it was what they called a slow season. I was training for their busy season,” recalls Quitiquit, who began in the spring of 2011. “Now it’s constant. There are no ‘seasons.’ There’s always something going on – dart tournaments, pool leagues, live entertainment, karaoke.”
Quitiquit has been a part of the change. She quickly graduated through the ranks – from cocktail waitress to bartender – and was promoted to bar manager in November.
She has been the perfect complement to Entertainment Director Chris Creek, providing the behind-the-scenes structure while Creek – a musician by night – operates in the public eye.
Together, they’ve championed Rookies’ revival as one of the Central Valley’s premier venues for live music, drinks, dancing and entertainment.
Two recent bookings solidify that status.
Rookies will host the Oakdale Rodeo Kick-Off Party on Friday, April 12. The event is free to the public and will feature Kat Country radio personality Jaimee Lee, a meet-and-greet with PRCA cowboys and cowgirls at 7 p.m. and a live performance by The Chris Creek Band at 9 p.m.
It’s all build-up for the 62nd annual Oakdale Saddle Club PRCA Rodeo, a springtime jewel for those along the Highway 120 corridor. The rodeo gets under way on Saturday with a parade at 9 a.m. and continues Sunday. Grand entry is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. each day.
But before the world converges on the Cowboy Capital for two days of broncs, bulls and barrel racing, they’ll stop in Manteca.
“We’re on (highways) 99 and 120,” Creek said, “so it’s an ideal spot for everyone coming from all over the Valley.”
However, the kick-off party is just a precursor – an opening act, if you will – for what comes next.
A production crew will film Friday’s kick-off party for a commercial that will promo the next gig in Rookies’ blossoming partnership with Kat Country. On March 25, Kat Country announced that Rookies would host the ever-popular Listener Appreciation Concert’s official after party on June 1. LAC will be headlined by Gretchen Wilson with special guests Phil Vassar and X-Factor’s Tate Stevens among others.
The concert is staged at Stockton’s Weber Point, but the party – and perhaps a few of its musical guests – will roll back to Manteca once the music has stopped. The cover is $10, and Creek says Rookies will offer a few VIP packages.
“To have it here, it’s almost a no-brainer,” he said. “It’s the biggest music venue around.”
Creek hopes the parties are the start of a monogamous relationship between radio station and music venue. He’d like Rookies – with its upgraded sound system, large dance floor, and central location – to become the official after-hours spot for all Kat Country events.
“I knew that we could do this,” Creek said of the bookings. “A lot of radio stations have certain venues they call home. I’ve been around this stuff for a very long time, so I knew the ins and outs on how to get it done. When you have a venue of this size and potential it helps draw in these events.”
Creek and Quitiquit expect large turnouts for both parties, with patrons coming from all corners of Northern California. To accommodate the crowds, Rookies upgraded its capacity from 272 to 473.
“Oh, we’re super excited. All of our bartenders want to work that night,” Quitiquit said of the LAC after party. “We’re always trying to find new ways to keep business up. The rodeo and LAC are perfect for that.”