That old saw, what's good for the clientele ain't great for management, holds true at Bronco Billy's Saloon, where anemic attendance of late makes for an uncommonly uncrowded dance floor.
This Long Beach honky-tonk, formerly known as the Silver Bullet, was closed until January after a three-month refurbishment and management change, and--as often happens in such cases--it lost many of its followers in the process.
As a result, two-stepping on a recent Saturday night was a breeze rather than a battle for elbow room, as it is at just about any other countrified club around. That alone is worth the trip across the county line.
Physically, little has changed here. There's still no cowhide upholstery, no pastel prairie murals, no stuffed moose heads. Refreshingly, this large, airy, glitz-less place still boasts a dressed-down, down-home look and feel, with a bounty of neon beer signs, utilitarian ceiling fans and no-nonsense reddish vinyl chairs.
In fact, if it weren't for a Texas flag hanging over a bank of tables and stools at one end, this might be mistaken for a 1950s coffee shop, with a blinking, star-shaped light fixture reminiscent of a dated diner road sign above the oddly configured but sizable dance floor.
You won't find Beautiful People at Bronco Billy's, either. Sure, there's a glistening rhinestone or two, but forget about needing the kind of figure that accommodates painted-on jeans; any old pair of denims will do. Likewise, the unpresumptuous crowd, most in their 30s and 40s, exudes no cooler-than-thou attitude or appears to be on the hunt for low-cost quick love.
Local bands--such as American Made, Western Union and the better than average Doo Wah Riders--provide live music every night, typically covering upbeat country hits. During breaks, a deejay delivers the same mix of recognizable tunes, about half suitable for two-stepping and half for line-dancing. (Swing fans are encouraged to share the floor with the latter.)
The second story of this cavernous club houses two other small dance floors (open only when necessary) and a dining area, another coffee shop flashback with wall mirrors adorned with those tacky gold web-like designs. If you're in the mood for food, a cheeseburger is $5.50, a chicken breast dinner with beans and fries costs $9.50 and New York steak with mushrooms goes for $15.50.
Beers are $3, and mixed drinks such as a Long Island ice tea are $5.25. Specials between 6 and 8 p.m. bring some drinks down to 75 cents a pop.
* BRONCO BILLY'S
* 3321 South St., Long Beach.
* (310) 633-4281.
* Open Wednesday through Saturday only, 6 p.m.-1:30 a.m. Admission is free Wednesday and Thursday and from 6 to 8 p.m Friday and Saturday, then $3 until closing. Free 30-minute dance lessons daily at 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 p.m.. The band starts at 8 p.m., and the kitchen is open 6 to 10 p.m.