Motorcycles jam onto San Benito Street.

Motorcycles jam onto San Benito Street.

The months of preparation; countless shopping trips to San Jose for food, paper goods and liquor, hiring extra employees, arranging for extra garbage disposal, ice deliveries, porta potties, fencing, chairs, ice chests, easy-ups and umbrellas is behind me. My fifteenth motorcycle rally in twenty years as Johnny’s owner was the huge success that I predicted it would be. The new promoters, Convexx, did a suburb job of setting up a rally full of things to see and do and everyone I spoke with was having a fantastic time.

Vern Autrey - 90 years old and still riding.

Vern Autrey – 90 years old and still riding.

Original Boozefighter Vern Autrey made the trek to Hollister from Southern California just as he did in 1947. He is ninety years old and still rides like a fiend. The younger guys will tell you that he’s hard to keep up with. I usually throw him a birthday party on the Thursday before the rally but he didn’t let me know when he was getting in this year. As always, he rode off into the sunset when he darn well pleased. He isn’t a man for goodbyes.

Early Saturday morning.

Early Saturday morning.

On Saturday July 4th I ventured up the street to the bank. By 10:30 in the morning the streets were already full of motorcycles and people enjoying them. It made my heart soar. I remember well the years when we had no rally and the lack of rumbling engines made me want to cry. It’s the third rally since the 2009 cancellation that led to a four year hiatus and as far as I’m concerned it was the best one yet. The promise it holds for future rallies is phenomenal.

Our professional security guard. Safety first.

Our professional security guard. Safety first.

Chuck Shwartz requested that I hire a uniformed guard from a professional security company for certain hours of the rally on Friday and Saturday night. For some reason he was led to believe that I might have trouble on my patio, so to put his mind at ease he added the need for a security guard to my vendor contract. My beer garden in Wentz Alley qualifies as vendor space. On Friday night at 7:00 I was shocked to find an older uniformed man that brought Barney Fife to mind asking for me. Sure enough he was the man sent by a security company whose name I won’t mention. I’d rather not embarrass them. Don’t get me wrong. The gentleman was quite nice, but his stature didn’t make one feel protected. When Allen and I were threatened by a drunken gang-banger that we refused entry to, Barney didn’t move a muscle. He did however bring us some much needed comic relief.

Yum, yum pizza!

Yum, yum pizza!

We were savages.

We were savages.

On Saturday night our good friend Sean brought us three pizzas from Round Table. After a few days of eating nothing but barbeque, pizza was a wonderful surprise. As I gazed around the kitchen we looked like a bunch of vultures stuffing our faces in full abandon. Sean took the prize for good deed of the day.

What happened to fun-day Sunday?

What happened to fun-day Sunday?

We aren’t at that place where the line to get in the door starts at eleven a.m. and goes all day, but all of my thirty something employees stayed busy. The Thursday before the rally was much busier than it was last year as well as Friday. Saturday was a bit slower because it was the fourth and many people were out enjoying fireworks with their families. However, when Sunday rolled around I had to call in extra employees because I hadn’t anticipated being that busy. It’s usually my day to unwind and have a little fun. My son Allen looked at me at one point and said, “Mom, what happened to fun-day Sunday?”

Fun-day Sunday kicking in.

Fun-day Sunday kicking in.

A great bunch of folks enjoying the patio.

A great bunch of folks enjoying the patio.

Once the announcement was made that the party was over, the place cleared out a bit. The town was full of motorcycles and the declaration to move your bikes out of the middle of the street or be towed seemed a bit abrupt. People told me that they were in the middle of making purchases when vendors just shut down in order to avoid a fine. Most of the people I spoke with thought three o’clock was a bit early to close down the event. I mentioned it to Chuck Schwartz of Convexx and he informed me that they are already having meetings to address things that they can improve on next year. With their first Hollister Freedom Rally behind them the dedicated team is sure to fine-tune it for future rallies. They did a great job and these guys are in it for the long haul.

A wonderful bunch of people having a great time.

A wonderful bunch of people having a great time.

It wouldn’t be my blog if I didn’t address the midnight bar closures. As the ordinance was described to me after the behind closed doors meeting of the city council and Chief Westerick, I could not serve any alcohol after midnight. This meant an 11:15 last call to be sure that everyone had a shot at one last beverage. On Friday night we served our last drink at 11:55 and there were about twenty people left in the bar finishing their beverages. We were going through all of our closing procedures when at about 12:10 I was asked to step outside to talk to Captain Reynoso who chastised me for still having people in the bar. I assured him that we hadn’t served anything for at least fifteen minutes and that people were just finishing up their drinks. I was then informed that I was to have my doors closed by midnight. Since I hadn’t received a copy of the last-minute ordinance this was news to me. And it was disturbing news.

On Friday we had a pretty wild group that I was actually relieved to give last call at 11:15. However on Saturday night I had a wonderful local crowd that was dancing and having a great time. They were happy and polite and I hated to tell them that they had to go home. When I stepped out front to see if the Captain was warily watching the bar again, there wasn’t a cop in sight. The streets were absolutely deserted. I sincerely fail to see why the early closure was necessary. I’ve been at this for twenty years and my team and I know when to close up shop because people have had too much and are looking for trouble. We gave last call on Sunday at 7:00 of our own accord.

Too many patches to name with everyone getting along.

Too many patches to name with everyone getting along.

Bikers with more patches than I could begin to count hung out together and enjoyed each other’s company. We had a wonderfully safe and incident free rally, which I attribute to lots of prayer and preparation. I think Chief Westrick did a great job ensuring a safe rally but I respectfully disagree with the early closure ordinance. As a business owner, being told to close two hours early during the Freedom Rally is a bit of a contradiction. I’m no dummy though; I know that without Chief Westerick we wouldn’t even have a rally. His predecessor killed the rally, and he brought it back. For that I will always be grateful. I encouraged all of the disappointed folks leaving on Saturday night to let the chief and their council members know how they felt about it. Many said they would, but when it gets right down to it, I doubt that many will.

Trish the barbecue queen. People were lined up for sandwiches.

Trish the barbecue queen. People were lined up for sandwiches.

To sum it up, this year’s rally was fantastic at Johnny’s, despite the early closure. We went through 300 pounds of tri-tip, 30 gallons of macaroni salad, 360 eggs, sixty pounds of potatoes, twenty pounds of bacon, ten pounds of sausage, thirty pounds of peppers and onions and almost 300 cases of beer. We bought over 2000 pounds of ice from our friends at Damn Good Spring Water and lots of good folks that worked for us have some extra spending money in their pockets. The rally benefits will be felt throughout the county for quite some time.

Thank you to all of the beautiful people that spent their time and hard earned money at Johnny’s. Thank you to Convexx and the Hollister Downtown Association for throwing a really great party. I’ll bet next year is even better.

The A-team from New York were a hug help.

The A-team from New York were a huge help and sold lots of Johnny’s collectibles.

A huge thank you goes out to my incredible crew. I could not do it without them. Most of them help me out every year but we also had some new helpers this year that did a fabulous job. Without a bunch of great people backing me up, I couldn’t make it through a rally. I am a very blessed woman.

Seasoned rally team members.

Seasoned rally team members.

New team member Dierdrea got thrown behind the bar on Sunday.

New team member Dierdrea got thrown behind the bar on Sunday.

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Contact Information

Johnny’s Bar & Grill
526 San Benito Street
Hollister, CA 95023

Phone: (831) 637-3683
Email Us HERE

Johnny’s Hours

Grill:
Mon to Sat   11 am – 9 pm
Sunday  Brunch 9 am
Sunday  Bar-B-Que 1 pm

Bar: 
Mon – Fri  11 am – 2 am
Sat  & Sun  9 am – 2 am

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