Historic Bakersfield honky-tonk Trout’s destroyed in fire | News

Trout’s, a historic Bakersfield honky-tonk, burned to its foundation early Monday morning, an unceremonious end to one of the city’s most storied nightclubs.

According to the Kern County Fire Department, firefighters were dispatched to a fire reported in the alley next to Trout’s at 11:42 p.m. Sunday. By the time they arrived, the fire had already engulfed around a quarter of the building at 805 N. Chester Ave., KCFD said in a news release.

The department described the fire as fast-spreading, and although the main body of the fire had been suppressed within an hour, multiple sections of the building collapsed in that time.

Firefighters needed to remain on scene throughout the night to fully extinguish the blaze, KCFD said in the release.

No injuries or fatalities were reported. The Fire Department did not offer an explanation as to who or what started the fire.

Still, Renan Polanco, who owns the Country Kitchen Family Dining restaurant next door, said the fire may have been started by homeless individuals who frequently gather in the alley between the two buildings.

“I feel bad because I know that was not an accident. There were people that started it,” he said. “I would understand if there was a wind and something caught on fire, whatever, that’s fine. That’s natural. When somebody does that, I feel kind of bad.”

On Monday afternoon, Polanco was moving equipment and supplies from his restaurant, which had lost power as a result of the blaze. He hoped to reopen Tuesday.

The destruction of Trout’s erases yet another landmark of Bakersfield history. The nightclub opened in 1945, but found its stride in the mid-1960s as a bellwether of the Bakersfield Sound. Known for a working class, rough-around-the-edges crowd, Trout’s was open nearly every day during longtime owner Vern Hoover’s tenure, hosting live music five or six days a week.

“Everybody went through Trout’s,” said Mike McCoy, executive director of the Kern County Museum. “There were a number of famous honky-tonks in town, but Texas Barrelhouse, The Blackboard and Trout’s, they were the three mainstays.”

Some Trout’s memorabilia has been preserved at the Kern County Museum, including a section of the original bar and a chandelier. But the building itself is likely gone forever.

The burning of Trout’s follows fiery destruction of former east Bakersfield dive bar Amestoy’s and other historically relevant structures throughout the city. McCoy worried about the future of the city given the propensity for historic buildings to be destroyed in fires.

“This is really scary to anybody that lives in Bakersfield, these arsons that are going on,” he said. “It’s really a nightmare at this point.”

Trout’s has gone through an extended purgatory following its sale to a medical company in 2018. Former owner Allan Thomas Rockwell was found guilty of 17 felony counts and one misdemeanor count of theft from an elder and elder identity theft in Tuolumne County in February.

Truxtun Psychiatric Medical Group, which now owns the property, had demolished the interior in hopes of renovating the building so it could be leased to a tenant. Those plans may now be in jeopardy as the business considers its options.

“It’s an unfortunate turn of events. The building is insured so that is good. But right now we’re just kind of gathering all the facts and figuring out what the next steps are,” said Truxtun Psychiatric CEO Ganesh Acharya. “It was going to be a much nicer space than it was over the last few years. It’s too early to tell what we do next.”

You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415. You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.