Country music’s East County mainstay out of commission
On Wednesday, August 8, this message appeared on Facebook: “It is with a saddened heart that we announce Lacey J’s last day of business will be Sunday, August 12,” Lacey J’s being the most recent incarnation of Magnolia Mulvaney’s in Santee. Nathan James and the Hills were the last act scheduled to play that night. “Come out and help us say goodbye to all of our amazing guests, staff, and entertainment.”
“It’s true,” says Jeanna Cash by phone. Cash is Lacey J’s owner and general manager. “Unless some kind of miracle happens in the next three days, we’re finished. This was my dream place. I had always wanted to own it. I taught my kids how to line dance right here one this floor. We came for eight years. Every Sunday was family night,” she says, “until they stopped doing that.”
The single mother’s roadhouse dream lasted for about a year. Cash assumed ownership in July of 2011 but says it was hard times from day one. “I walked into a disaster. I put $50,000 of my own money in just to clean up the mess the last guy left.”
Cash had been pumping more of her own money into Lacy J’s ever since. “We are generally $5000 in the red each month.” On many Friday and Saturdays nights, she says the club generated less than $1800. Why? “People aren’t buying drinks. They come in, but they drink soda or they drink water.”
The club’s liquor license still belongs to the previous owner, Cash says. Public records show the licensee is Renegade Holdings, DBA Lacey J’s Roadhouse Saloon and Grille. Willard Cook, a name long associated with Mulvaney’s, is listed as the company president.
Magnolia Mulvaney’s first opened at that address in 1943. In 2003, the Reader made mention of the Texas-sized dance floor and called it the “kind of bar where blondes are proud of their dark roots and men are proud of their too-tight jeans.”
Lacey J’s sought to leaven that country image with rock and blues. “We’ve had some amazing talent out here in the last year.” A look at recent listings includes Mercedes Moore, Sue Palmer, Whitney Shay, Three Chord Justice, and Trailerpark Rockstar. Cash says Tesla was booked for the fall concert schedule.
Investors have expressed interest, but for now, Cash says she’s tired. “I just need to take a little time and regroup.” What will she do next? “I don’t know.” She pauses and then begins to cry. “But I always end up on my feet.”