One of the selling points of any community is the vibrancy of its nightlife.
In this area, Gonzales can be thankful that it is “square.” “Square” as in the vibrancy of its establishments on Heroes Square and Confederate Square.
In recent years, the opening of La Bella and Come and Take It have added to the allure of the Running M and the longstanding Long Branch Saloon. At night, the dining, dancing, singing and drinking establishments have made downtown Gonzales a much more desirable place to hang out and be seen.
“Downtown Gonzales is my home,” said Karen Jacobs, owner of the Long Branch Saloon on Heroes Square. “This is the most interesting, entertaining and welcoming place I’ve ever lived. Everyone is friendly, and it doesn’t matter whether you are a Texan or just a visitor, Gonzales’ hospitality is second to none.”
Karen and her late husband Keith purchased the Long Branch a few years ago and have done extensive remodeling to make the saloon enticing to everyone. Karaoke is the big attraction at the Long Branch, and Karen says that people from everywhere enjoy belting out a tune. There is a familiarity with singing and karaoke, and it makes people feel more comfortable, relaxed and welcomed when they come to Gonzales.
The Long Branch is also looking to expand its food operation, as they have purchased a food truck and are getting ready to roll the truck out for business this fall.
While the Long Branch may be the oldest of the Gonzales watering holes, the addition of the Come and Take It on the corner of Confederate Square has been a huge boost to the downtown scene.
On Sept. 20, 2016, the Come and Take It opened its doors for the first time ever after having spent months renovating the building. The addition of its ground-level patio with the view of the square changed the whole dynamic of the sports bar/restaurant.
“I didn’t want to mix liquor with family fun at La Bella,” said owner Gasper Lekgega, who also is the owner of the La Bella Italian restaurant just across the street. “Plus, the square and Gonzales has a lot of history and I wanted to put people who come to visit out in that type of environment. In Europe, people come out on the squares and celebrate their community and I wanted to bring that to Gonzales.”
The Come and Take It manager, Besard “Besi” Gegaj, says the Come and Take It has other things going for it as well.
“We have had entertainment from the first day we opened the place,’’ Besard said. “We try and bring in good bands to perform live, and on Thursdays we usually have karaoke. Plus, people enjoy our food and rave about our pizza so it’s a good place to hang out, eat, converse and have good drinks while watching all your favorite sports on all our TVs.
“In addition, this fall we are hoping to open our upstairs patio which will be a roof top bar overlooking the square. I think it will attract more people downtown,” Besard concluded.
Lekgega said he opened La Bella four years ago, and he credits Boomers Sports Bar owner Leann May Wilkerson for luring him to Gonzales.
“Leann works in Seguin, and I had a restaurant over there and she would come in and encourage me to come to Gonzales,” Lekgega said. “Well, I finally took her up on her suggestion, and I’m glad I did. We are happy here in Gonzales. The people are great, there is a lot of history, and this is a friendly place to do business.”
Across the square from La Bella and Come and Take It sits a great bar/restaurant, the Running M. Owned by Marlene Metzler, the Running M has become a Gonzales institution for locals and out-of-towners alike.
After retiring from her state job, Metzler purchased the building and created her own vision when opening the Running M. Original brickwork and other historic artifacts and relics decorate the bar, making the Running M a cozy place to enjoy good food, good drinks and good music.
“I had a lot of help when I opened this place,” Metzler said. “We have added the patio area out back, and it has turned into a great place to have bands play during the spring, summer and fall. People who visit just love sitting outside and listening to good music.
“Plus, we have the most extensive menu downtown, a great staff and good food. We have something for just about everyone.”
Metzler said Gonzales has a real friendly attitude towards visitors, which makes Gonzales a great place to not only come and visit, but also to live and own a business here.
“I think the general attitude of everyone around here is that tourism and business is a good thing, which makes this area even more enticing to do business in.”