I had my reservations when a friend suggested I visit Rocky's 7440 Club in Citrus Heights for my next adventure. The bar bills itself as "The Adult Playground," a moniker innocent enough, yet also so vague it filled me with apprehension. What, exactly, was I getting myself into?
To quell my anxiety, I brought my two best friends with me on a Tuesday. We walked in around 8:30 p.m. to a nearly empty room – six men in their 40s sat around chatting familiarly with each other and the bartender as she tidied up and returned their wisecracks.
We ordered some drinks ($8.50 for a pitcher of Pabst, $4 for a pint of Guinness), sat at a table in the corner and examined the eccentric décor as we waited for the action to begin.
Within an hour, the crowd quadrupled. The bulk of the patrons had turned out to sing – "The 40," as regulars have dubbed it, offers karaoke seven nights a week – but some were there strictly to play pool at the back of the building.
What began as a relaxed, stress-free evening evolved into a fun night of stories and laughs, cheering for the singers and sometimes even singing along from our corner table. My friends and I felt comfortable from the get-go; this bar was like any other place we'd been a dozen times over.
When we returned on a Saturday, however, we discovered that we were wrong: The 40 is unlike anywhere we'd been before.
What we failed to notice on a Wednesday visit was the backyard. Beyond the pool room is a massive outdoor area that includes its own bar, putting green, dance floor and DJ booth, and plenty of tables and heaters. The contrast between the front and back of the club is surprising.
"We're a hole-in-the-wall karaoke bar when you walk in and a three-time KCRA Best Dance Club in the backyard," said general manager Eric Berg.
An organized crew of around 12 bouncers and security staffers, an obvious but not pushy presence, moved throughout the backyard crowd of about 100 – a number that, according to Berg, grows considerably during the summer, when the club opens its regulation-sized beach volleyball court.
The groups clustered around the tropical-themed outdoor area were completely different from one another, but meshed nicely. Out of place anywhere else, a man in a Stetson was deep in conversation with a woman dressed to the nines. People of all kinds interacted as if they were old friends.
This atmosphere is what keeps Michael LeClair coming back.
"Me and my wife, we'd rather come here than any other club," he said. "There's a lot of diversity. It's great."
Amber Addison and Joseph Franklin echoed that sentiment. The two said they visit an average of three weekends per month.
"This is our place," said Addison, smiling at Franklin.
Back inside, the karaoke singers were beginning to hit their stride. It was much rowdier and more crowded than on our previous trip, with barely enough room to navigate to the bar. I was finally able to order my gin and tonic, which was tasty if not terribly strong, and a steal at $3.75, while people around me eagerly awaited their turn in the spotlight.
Most singers were decent at best, and those are karaoke jockey DA Harmon's favorite.
"My whole thing is, have a good time. Sing for yourself," said the KJ of eight years.
Owner Rocky Moffit, who 3 1/2 years ago purchased the bar, perpetuates this genial approach. Moffit, once The 40's general manager and a former bartender, understands the things his employees go through. This background makes him, "honestly, one of the best bosses I've worked for," said Harmon.
Rocky's 7440 Club is unique from any angle, and, large and unusual as it is, it still carries a warmth you'd expect to receive at your neighborhood bar. It embraces the idea that adults need a place to play, too, and strives to pass that fun-loving outlook on to its customers. I eagerly await volleyball season.
Rocky's 7440 Club is at 7440 Auburn Blvd., Citrus Heights. It is open seven days a week, 6 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.