The missing Trout’s sign has potentially become a police matter.
The new owners of the building that for decades housed the historic Oildale nightclub formerly known as Trout’s have filed a police incident report regarding the building’s missing sign.
But the report — filed online — appears to have gone to the wrong law enforcement agency. For now.
Will Stuart, president of the Northern California-based ownership group Thurman Investments, which now owns the building, filed the theft report through the Bakersfield Police Department’s online system.
But the location of the historic honky-tonk is 805 N. Chester Ave. in Oildale, an unincorporated county area under the jurisdiction of the Kern County Sheriff’s Office.
“Normally in these cases, once they (the BPD) determine that it’s one of ours, they will send it on to us,” said Kern County Senior Deputy Tommy Robbins, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office.
Then a sergeant will “triage” all new reports and determine which ones have leads and are worthy of the expenditure of precious investigative resources.
In the report, Stuart estimated the market value of the sign at $50,000.
“Our listing agent discovered the sign was gone on the date given (June 9),” Stuart wrote in the report.
“We foreclosed on the building and own the sign and all other attached fixtures. I hope you can find the sign. We would like to donate the sign to an approved recipient if found.”
Thomas Rockwell, the longtime operator of the bar, posted a Facebook message May 20 announcing that the famous sign had been taken down for refurbishing. Rockwell has not responded to multiple phone calls and private Facebook messages, sent over a period of weeks.
His Facebook page has since been deleted.
Meanwhile, social media has been abuzz about the location of the sign. Even a newspaper in Nashville speculated about rumors regarding the whereabouts of the grungy but iconic sign featuring a big jumping fish.
“Have You Seen the Trout’s Trout?” asked a headline in the July 5 edition of Nashville Scene.
As Rockwell was never the owner of the building, it seems pretty clear he is not the rightful owner of the sign. But who really owns it?
Wayland Louie, a commercial real estate broker with RE/MAX Golden Empire, said unless a building “fixture” like a sign is specifically excluded from the details of sale, it is expected to remain as part of the building when ownership changes.
“A fixture, if it’s attached, is considered part of the building,” Louie said.
If a potential buyer wanted to bring Trout’s back to its former status, or even turn it into a country music museum or a tourist stop for fans of the Bakersfield Sound, the sign could be seen as quite valuable, he said.
The building was built in 1933, and the nightclub has been touted as the last authentic honky-tonk saloon in the Bakersfield area.
Local real estate broker Alex Balfour, of Cushman & Wakefield, said the previously published asking price of $349,000 was a mistake. The actual price is $395,000.
No one seems sure whether that will include the now famous sign.