NORFOLK, Va. - The lights are on, the stage is set, for a boot scootin' weekend at The Banque.
"It's been a real dream to have a nightclub last as long as this club has," said owner Dennis Doughty.
The Texas-sized 17,000 square foot country western dance club on Little Creek Road in Norfolk, has been a honky-tonk haven for nearly 50 years. Stars like Alan Jackson, Brooks and Dunn and Rascal Flatts, getting their start.
"We opened in 1973 and it was a giant open air supermarket so we first opened up as a show band room," said Doughty.
For decades the dance floor has stayed packed, 300 people were known to swell the floors looking to shuffle at one time.
But during the pandemic, it’s been hard to corral the crowds as the military is a huge percentage of their business and they have been under COVID-19 restrictions.
"We have been doing a a slow business we are still alive," he said.
Now, the brass buckles have been replaced by masks. The doors close early, no 2 a.m., last call and the bottle’s are shelved by 10 p.m., per the Governor Northam's COVID-19 orders.
"Business is off 60 percent our volume is way, way, down, " said Doughty.
It's ironic, because its how the Banque got it’s name nearly fifty years, ago. Owner Dennis Doughty went through five banks to get a loan to open the joint, at first calling the place "Fifth National Bank." Lately, he’s had his thoughts of hanging his hat for good.
"I had tears in my eyes when I had those thoughts," he said.
The Banque was closed from March to August, five months of a huge financial hit, but they got creative, selling T-shirts on the weekend making sure to keep their name in the spotlight.
"Our shirts say 'this isn't our first rodeo,' said Doughty. "Our motto is eatin', dancin' and havin' fun and that's what we will do."