KAMLOOPS – From horses tied to bus stops, mechanical bull riding competitions to various name changes, CJ’s nightclub had it all.
The club will be closing its doors Saturday, March 3, but it has had a lasting effect on Kamloops.
CJ’s will always hold a special meaning for Monique Vek. Almost 23 years ago, it’s where she first met her husband.
“At the time Nelson Riis was the Member of Parliament, and some guy walked by that looked like him. And I said to my friend that looks just like that Nelson Riis guy, and some guy behind me piped up and said ‘That is Nelson Riis!’ And when I turned around there was what turned out to be my future husband,” Vek says.
“I’d see him at the bar after that, and he was a painfully shy guy. I’d go there with all my friends and he would be there with all of his friends and he would literally never ask me to dance,” she says.
Time went on and they kept running into each other at the club. He would sit up at the bar and Vek says they would make those stupid googly eyes at each other. But nothing was happening, until Vek decided was enough.
“I marched right up to him, tapped him on the shoulder and said are you ever going to ask me to dance?” Vek says.
They have been together ever since.
Opening in 1986, as Jack Daniels, it was the hottest spot in Kamloops. Everyone wanted to be there, they would pack over 200 people in the building on Wednesday nights for mechanical bull riding. If you weren’t there before 9 p.m. on a Friday or Saturday, you weren’t getting in the door.
The “Samurai Cowboy” Lance Yamada was the do-it-all-man for the club when it opened. He was the DJ, marketing director, radio host and television host. He had is hand in all things at the club. Yamada says that in conjunction with owners Roy Baron and Rick Richmond, they turned the club into a major spot on the bar scene in western Canada.
“To this day, people still don’t know my name,” Yamada says. “They just walk up and call me the Samurai.”
Yamada called the club atmosphere electric. It was the place to be in the late 80s and throughout the 90s. The reach of the club stretched all the way down the coast into California. Yamada says when he was at Disneyland he saw people wearing jackets from the club.
Yamada will never forget the grand opening. They had poured hours into marketing and coming up with ideas to make the place people would flock too. As a country bar, they targeted ranchers from Kamloops and surrounding areas, as well as anyone who wanted to come dance to country or rock music.
“We had this guy named Buckles,” Yamada says. “He decided to bring his horses down Victoria Street and tie them to the bus stop. You walk down the street and see two horses tied up. You couldn’t script it any better.”
Going from Jack Daniels to Cactus Jacks to CJ’s, the club has evolved throughout the years. It turned from a country bar to a club that had hip-hop shows and played top 40 music. CJ’s has also helped start careers of young DJs.
“CJ’s gave me the greatest opportunity,” says Kamloops resident DJ Timo Silva. “I wouldn’t have a following or anything out here if it wasn’t for them.”
Silva is sad the club is closing but he is proud to be a part of the legacy.
He’s hoping the final night at CJ’s is one that people will never forget. Silva says the crowd will be taken on a musical journey. There will be country, rock, top 40 and everything in between to highlight the past 32 years of the club. He expects the atmosphere to be electric.
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