Katy Nesbitt
The La Grande Observer

ENTERPRISE — For 70 years, the Range Rider has been an icon in Enterprise, with its neon cowboy perpetually roping a neon calf over the front door. New owner Jacey Bell said she intends to keep it much the way it’s always been — a family-style cowboy bar.

“I’ve always loved this bar,” Bell said. “It’s a cool spot and it has so much history.”

Bell said the Range Rider’s menu is the same as it was under previous ownership, and specials will be added as her staff gets comfortable running the popular establishment. Hours and days of the week will eventually expand, but the biggest change will be a regular stream of live bands that are bringing in receptive crowds.

So far, about a dozen bands have played on the new stage, now located in the back of the restaurant, creating a venue slightly separated from the front dining area and the bar.

“Down the road I’m hoping to have music almost every week,” Bell said.

Bell, a bonafide music fan, has been around music her entire life. Her father, Al, is a singer-songwriter in Wallowa County and her brother, Matt Bell, and sister-in-law, Joy Patterson, are professional musicians living in New Orleans.

In July, Matt and Patterson will perform their Louisiana hillbilly fever-style music at the Range Rider during their annual tour through Northeast Oregon. The John Hatchett Band, a country band from New Orleans, appears at the end of August. New bookings are announced regularly on the Range Rider’s Facebook page.

Also coming in the fall, local literary legend and comic genius John Rombach will host a bingo night.

Bell said she finds it fitting to be the owner of one of the county’s most popular watering holes.

“I come from a line of saloon owners,” she said. “My grandparents owned the Old Mill Tavern in Mill Valley, California, and my dad and his brother had a bar in Idaho.”

After 15 years with Terminal Gravity Brewing, Bell took the entrepreneurial leap. She said owning the classic Wallowa County bar had long been in the back of her mind, and when it came up for sale in October, she mentioned her interest to owners Mark and Janet Baughn. On April 26, she had the keys to the front door.

Not long after the ink was dry on the deal, Bell said, she got a call from OK Theatre owner Darrell Brann. The wildly popular trio “Joseph” was booked that night and he wanted to know if the Range Rider would be open in time for the theater crowd. Bell’s idea of a “soft” opening evaporated as she and her staff readied for one of the busiest nights they’ve had so far.

She said she has had enormous support from the owners and staff at Terminal Gravity, the surrounding businesses and her friends, some of whom helped her prepare the restaurant for re-opening. One long time friend, Leah Johnson, helped design the menus and taught a bartending class for the new staff.

Johnson’s background in cocktail mixology leant itself to the invention of the bar’s new signature drink called “The Strange,” after the bar’s nickname. “The Strange” is a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey over ice in a pint glass served with grapefruit juice and topped off with Terminal Gravity’s latest brew, Roshambo.

“The Strange had to have strange ingredients that work together,” Bell said. “It sounds so weird, but tastes so good.”

Bell said eventually she wants to be open seven days a week, possibly serving breakfast on the weekends.