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Johnny Utah's Brings Bull-Riding Western Fun To South Norwalk

The former dance floor of the old Black Bear Saloon in South Norwalk will soon be home to Johnny Utah's signature mechanical bull.
The former dance floor of the old Black Bear Saloon in South Norwalk will soon be home to Johnny Utah's signature mechanical bull. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue
Johnny Utah's will celebrate the opening of its new location on Water Street in Norwalk with a weekend of events beginning Thursday, May 1.
Johnny Utah's will celebrate the opening of its new location on Water Street in Norwalk with a weekend of events beginning Thursday, May 1. Photo Credit: Casey Donahue

NORWALK, Conn. -- The site of the former Black Bear Saloon in South Norwalk will look very different when it reopens as Johnny Utah's on May 1.

This will be the third Johnny Utah's location, joining the first two in New York and Philadelphia. It is a country-themed bar with a mechanical bull, barbecue and Southwestern cuisine, a collection of more than 40 beers; and drinks served in signature 42-ounce boot-shaped mugs.

"Country music has become a lot more mainstream," said Gina Groh, the national sales and marketing director for East Coast Saloons, which owns Johnny Utah's. She said Johnny Utah's will provide an atmosphere that is unique to the area, and is hoping to draw visitors from across the state. "Hopefully we'll become a real staple of the nightlife."

The mechanical bull will likely be the main attraction, Groh said. The bull will be encased in an 18-foot ring and will be free to ride whenever Johnny Utah's is open. She said it is one of the elements that sets the location apart from what it used to be.

"It's completely different, even from the look of the place," said Groh. "We're changing the vibe of the entire place. We want to create a place that's fun, welcoming and has a Southern hospitality feel."

The restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner, and will feature barbecue and Southern-style choices such as ribs, pulled pork, hush puppies and cornbread.

"We're pretty unique with our menu. Everything is handmade, and we'll be smoking our own meats here. Not a lot of places do that."

The opening weekend festivities will kick off Thursday, May 1, with a sneak peek at 8 p.m. The official grand opening will be Friday, May 2, which will feature a live broadcast from 5 to 7 p.m. by Dan Hopkins of the country radio station Kicks 105.5. There will also be rodeo clowns, the Naked Cowboy from Times Square and line dancing led by Cowboy Ron from 8 to 9 p.m. On Saturday, May 3, Johnny Utah's will host a fund-raiser Rides for a Cause from 7 to 9 p.m. to raise money for Bully Breeds Rescue. At 9 p.m. there will be a chance to win tickets to the Taste of Country Music Festival.