Sweet Lu's is gone and after a grand makeover, the Rusty Nail cocktail lounge pitches a different image and clientele at 3014 Fourth Street.
During a Friday afternoon ribbon cutting, Ceres Chamber of Commerce welcomed the new club to Ceres and expressions of amazement over the transformation were widespread.
"The whole place looks amazing," said Shella Joiner, a downtown boutique owner, Chamber member and local performer who sang at the bar when it was Sweet Lu's.
"We are a whole new venue and offer a different menu. We want to cater more to attract the business crowd but we still have the country feel where the old regulars would feel comfortable," said general manager Nelson Ramirez, who is co-owner with brother-in-law Sam Khacho.
Ramirez has tended bar for 16 years and is credited for getting several clubs off the ground, including the Udder Place in Turlock. He was one of the main bartenders at the Fat Cat in Modesto when it opened. He sees the Rusty Nail as being different than Sweet Lu's.
"To me, a bar is your everyday watering hole. We do as much fresh squeeze as we can here. I call this a cocktail lounge. The environment sets the tone."
Live music and dancing Friday and Saturday evening will still be a staple of the new establishment but music is intended to range from country to blues to southern rock and perhaps a Latin Night mixed in here and there.
Improvements included a new exterior with barn wood door, an exposed brick wall, new ceiling beams, new floor, exposed air ducts, new shelving and wall decorations using reclaimed wood and rusty sheets of metal. The restrooms have been remodeled as has the flooring in the entire facility. Even the bar has space to make it ADA compliant.
The enclosed and shaded patio area has been reformatted and there are plans to pave the lot stretching from behind the alley to Fifth Street opposite Alfonso's Mexican Bar & Grill.
"Nelson is a visionary," said Juan Romo, the new president of the Ceres Chamber of Commerce who has known Ramirez since his days at the Board Room in 2004. "We need to diversify. We can't have the same thing on every corner. This city is open for growth."
"We came in here and after two days decided to redo it all," said Khacho.
He said he had doubts about investing in the club but saw the serious commitment of the city to invest in the downtown makeover and it motivated him.
"I hope to be a pioneer to bring a higher class of things to Ceres," said Khacho.
The Rusty Nail is open 10 a.m. to midnight except for Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays when the hours are 8 a.m. to 2 a.m.