Wild West, Waco’s hotspot for country music and two-step dancing, hosted its last guests this January. The downtown bar and nightclub closed after a gradual decline in revenue and traffic.
“We were fortunate to be part of Waco nightlife for eight years,” said Mark Easterling, Wild West’s director of marketing and promotions.
Easterling said part of the club’s decline can be attributed to its relatively recent opening in 2007. However, he said that he and others can only speculate about other reasons for Wild West’s closure.
Wild West still holds the lease to the building on Mary Avenue, and the owners have not yet decided whether to sublease or re-lease the space.
Wild West provided Waco with a venue for touring country artists and a dancehall for Baylor students. On many Thursday nights, the darkened nightclub filled with freshmen learning the pretzel—a two-step dancing technique—and Waco locals enjoying a night out on the town.
“It was a little bit grungy to say the least, but that was the cool factor in going,” said Colleyville senior Oliver Ha. “It dissolved the lines between Waco natives and Baylor students.”
Houston senior Rachel Cantrell said Wild West was unique to Waco, providing students with an alternative form of entertainment on Thursday nights. She went with other members of her church beginning in her sophomore year, and, through dancing, gradually became closer with Gabe Zayas—who is now Cantrell’s boyfriend.
One Thursday night, Cantrell was feeling too sick to go to Wild West. When Zayas asked if she’d still be coming, she decided to go out anyway.
“I think we danced together the whole time that night. There were maybe a couple dances that we didn’t dance together,” Cantrell said. “It’s just always been a thing that we go and country dance, and Wild West is where you go.”
To Cantrell, Wild West was inviting and accessible to students, providing a kind of entertainment other venues couldn’t offer. She said students’ attitudes may have contributed to declining attendance.
“We don’t go places anymore. We sit on our couch and watch Netflix,” Cantrell said. “It was a wholesome activity that you could do together… We’re certainly going to miss it.”
Ha said he was in denial when he heard news of the closure. He had been planning an outing there with friends for Saturday night. After finally accepting that Wild West was closed, he settled on a new dance spot.
“I found The Melody Ranch,” Ha said. “That seems like the other country-dancing venue.”
While both The Melody Ranch, on Robinson Drive, and The Backyard, on 8th Street, offer live country music, neither is located as close to campus as Wild West was. For now, though, singers and dancers alike will have to go there or elsewhere for their country music fix.