After weeks of speculation, lack of communication and denials, it’s now confirmed.
Trout’s nightclub, the iconic Oildale honky-tonk where Merle Haggard, Red Simpson and other local music legends once twanged and crooned, is up for sale.
Not only that, the hunt is on for the Trout’s sign, which Thomas Rockwell, the longtime operator of the bar, said on Facebook last month he was repairing and refurbishing.
One thing is sure: the sign is gone, the new owners want it back, and they’re asking for help from locals who may have clues regarding its whereabouts.
“They hadn’t made a payment for close to a year,” said Will Stuart, of Los Altos-based Milestone Financial LLC. Stuart is overseeing the real estate asset for new owner Thurman Investments Inc.
According to the deed dated May 11, there was a notice of default and an election to sell. Mortgage Lender Services, which earlier had foreclosed on the property, sold it in public auction to Thurman Investments on May 9.
Eviction proceedings are beginning, Stuart said.
“We’re in Northern California. We’re not in a position to run a bar or manage the property.”
That’s why the owners have asked local broker Alex Balfour, of Cushman & Wakefield, to list the property and represent them in a sale.
The asking price: $349,000.
“The building was built in 1933, and has been home to the country music that helped define Bakersfield,” Balfour said Thursday. “We see it as a historic building.”
A location not only worth preserving, but worth improving.
The first priority is selling it, he said. But he would love to see it in the hands of a group of individuals, or even a single owner, who would like to continue the Trout’s tradition — only better.
And like Stuart, he believes the sign must be returned.
Rockwell, who posted a Facebook message May 20 announcing that the famous sign had been taken down for refurbishing, has not responded to multiple phone calls and private Facebook messages, sent over a period of weeks.
“Technically, the sign is ours,” Stuart said. And he considers its disappearance theft.
But he’d much rather enlist help from people in the community who truly care about the legacy of Trout’s.
The building and the sign mean something. They are part of local history.
Should a new owner want to continue the Trout’s legacy, the sign may be viewed as a valuable asset. If not, it could go to the Kern County Museum, where many of Bakersfield’s iconic signs have gone to retire when the businesses beneath them became extinct.
“It’s a fixture of the building,” Stuart said. “Our desire is to recover the sign and keep it with the building, or find a proper home for it.”