By Crystal Duan
Signal Staff Writer
Robbie Zimmerman had work the next day, but on Thursday night, he and his friends were hitting the town.
The bars located near the Westfield Valencia Town Center were their usual haunt, and Zimmerman was gearing up for a good night with an initial drink at Lazy Dog.
Then, he heard a name that surprised him: Borderline. Apparently, there was an event related to the Thousand Oaks bar and grill happening just next door at The Canyon Santa Clarita that night.
Zimmerman had to find out more. He had previously driven to Borderline before the mass shooting in November that killed 12, closing the spot indefinitely.
Now, this January Thursday night was the inaugural “Country Nights” for Santa Clarita, hosted in cooperation with Borderline. The previously long-standing Borderline tradition had been spreading to The Canyon in Agoura Hills, and was now here in the SCV.
Country Nights, where people line dance, drink and chat with strangers, had once been a common enjoyment for residents of the Santa Clarita Valley. Despite it being a 45-minute drive away, Zimmerman and other locals flocked to Borderline Bar and Grill to make memories every Wednesday night.
Thursday night, that spirit was encapsulated closer to home as people dressed in cowboy boots, ripped jeans, tanks and curious smiles filed into the entrance to The Canyon Santa Clarita.
Once inside, the music boomed with violins, crooning vocals and people lined up in perfect formation and kicking up their heels to the music.
Some sat around observing the scene with a beer in their hands, others participated joyously. Even a few “yeehaws” could be heard in the crowd.
Zimmerman swung by to see for himself, for he had once attended Borderline nights, although he’d never danced.
“I just like country music, ya know,” he said, standing by the line to wait for his turn to go in. “I go to a lot of country concerts and you can find me watching the line dancing. I think this is cool because The Canyon here usually does rock bands, but this is something different.”
The burly man with a dark beard and hat stood behind a table by the club entrance with a display of Borderline merchandise, listening to the exchange briefly before being swept away by exclaiming attendees.
“Brian!” they said, happy to see their old friend, for it had been months. “How have you been?”
Brian Hynes, owner of Borderline Bar and Grill for 10 years, was doing alright that night. He had plans to be out at The Canyon Santa Clarita weekly now, after The Canyon owner Lance Sterling agreed to bring Country Nights to his venues.
This was his way of bringing the community together after the tragedy a few months ago.
Hynes greeted old friends who knew him from their previous weekly commute out to his bar.
“People have been telling me thanks, because they used to drive 45 minutes to get to Borderline to do country, and now they only have to drive 10 minutes to come here,” he said.
Some residents in the crowd were at Borderline on the night of the massacre, and he hoped this would bring healing through dancing.
“We’re a family,” he said.
Candy Sherwin echoed Hynes’ sentiment, as she was also moving her country camaraderie from Thousand Oaks to Santa Clarita.
Sherwin is a line dance and two-step instructor who had taught at Borderline for years and plans to teach lessons at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. at The Canyon Santa Clarita on Thursdays.
“It’s fabulous to be here tonight,” she said. “We’re so excited to have country here and teach everyone. It’s been such a happy crowd, too.”
Sherwin said the biggest thing about “Country Night culture” was it brings people together.
“Of course we miss Borderline. It was our home,” she said. “But it’s nice that we can congregate and share that spirit here, and that is because we’re a family and Borderline strong no matter what.”
On Thursdays, there will be two separate classes, at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. respectively, with line dances for people to learn. After the classes, the regular dancing goes on until 1 a.m.
Jake Sterling, general manager at The Canyon Santa Clarita, said the turnout was about 550 or more by 9:30 p.m and anticipated more to come.
“I think there’s a lot of people local here who are really excited,” he said. “One of my best friends was there the night of the shooting, and I know that he and a lot of people want to get past it. Most people are just happy to have this here.”
The Canyon Santa Clarita is located in the Westfield Valencia Town Center at 24201 Valencia Blvd., No. 1351.