Whether a local, a regular or a trucker who’s made it a second home over the years, the Country Girl Saloon has served Castaic residents and interstate travelers for decades.
The so-called dive bar has been a North County fixture for more than 50 years, but its run on Castaic Road, nestled among the gas stations, near the Interstate 5 off-ramp, is coming to an end.
Owner Rich DeLong, who also owns Schoonerville and Shot Exchange, promised Thursday it would return, eventually.
“It could be three months, it could be six months, it could be a year,” he said, “but it’s gonna be back there.”
In a somewhat ironic twist, the freeway-adjacent saloon, which has provided respite to locals and truckers since 1972, is being bulldozed Tuesday and ultimately turned into a Kenworth dealership, where big rigs will be sold.
The bar’s last day of operations is Sunday, as the dealership’s plans have been in place and approved for some time.
Rich DeLong said he knows that not everyone’s a fan, but regardless, the bar has its loyal following, which is partly why it’s been a mainstay for decades as the valley around it has grown and changed.
“It’s your typical dive bar. People just come in there to relax and talk and have fun,” he said. “You know, it’s known clear across the United States. And truckers are our lifeline. So we always had parking for them and we’d open on Christmas and Thanksgiving so they had a place to go and we cooked turkeys and stuffing for them, so they had something to eat when every place was closed.”
Chris Dittes, a Castaic Area Town Council member and regular at the establishment, said he was sad to hear it was moving, saying the spot has a special space in the community.
“You know, it’s a social gathering place for the town and a lot of people like it,” he said, noting it’s really the only “pub” in town.
“I know it doesn’t have the best image in town and some people don’t like it there, but there’s a lot of people that do, and a lot of people who go there,” he added.
“I’ve been there a little bit and, and I talked to truckers that come through and they say, ‘Oh, yeah, they talk about this place in Louisiana,’ and, ‘Oh, they talk about this place over there,’ and they come through here just to stop there, and that’s pretty cool, you know?”
Longtime former bartender Lindsey Gockel worked there for around 15 years prior to the pandemic, and said she never received more kindness from her clientele, and the bar will always have a special place for her.
Not just for the friends she made there, but also because of all of the experience and memories she has.
She recalled when she first went for an interview there as a relatively inexperienced 23-year-old bartender after a friend recommended it.
“I literally walked in and was like, ‘What is this place? There were dollar bills everywhere. A jukebox with 45s. All the truckers and accents and personalities and so much I was like, ‘I don’t know if this is for me.’ It ended up taking them about 30 minutes to find me an application that had three questions and a coffee stain on it.”
Her first day, she recalled throwing out a patron by his ear for being rude, but the reaction of then-owner Rich DeLong senior was encouraging.
“So against my better judgment. I went in, and he gave me all the prime shifts. I ended up falling in love with it. I was his manager. I ran his bar for a long time. And I just fell in love with it,” she said, recalling some of her best memories there was the family-like celebration of her work anniversaries.
Over the years, the elder DeLong would become like family, she said.
And most of the bar’s detractors, she added, sharing a similar sentiment as DeLong and Dittes, never actually stepped foot inside the bar, which was always a fun place.
After Rich DeLong senior died in 2012, ownership of the bar reverted back to his son, who originally purchased the location in 1995.
The younger DeLong had to think long and hard about his favorite memories of the bar that was also a family business.
“Boy, that’d be a tough one,” he said Thursday. “It’s all the people you meet. I mean, we have truckers that will call you, you know, two hours before they’re gonna be in town … from all over, all over the United States. We have people from Florida that come there.”
DeLong didn’t want to leak the location he’s eyeing yet for his move, because he didn’t want to “jinx it,” he said, but loyal patrons should keep an eye out.
On Saturday night, anyone who wants to join the celebration is welcome at 31602 Castaic Road, DeLong said.