You’ll wish you were in Dixie

It’s an hour until party time, and David Townsend is on the hunt for 2,000 missing poker chips.

An inspector just gave Dixie Roadhouse, Cape Coral’s newest nightclub, approval to open its doors and now, 60 employees are unpacking liquor bottles and checking electrical equipment at a frantic pace.

Out in the club, brawny men sling bags of ice over their shoulders as they bound across the empty, blue lit dance floor. Two women with bare midriffs arrange bottles of Pepe Lopez and McCormick whiskey at one of three large bars.

A booming dance beat suddenly blares over speakers, then clicks off, and a chain saw revs up. A DJ checks the mic, while a Metro ice truck backs up to the front door.

“We’ve moved from a construction zone to a dance clu guess factory b in a matter of hours,” line dance instructor John Wingo says.

Townsend, the club’s co owner, is sitting in a cramped office, aware of every minute that ticks by.

“We open in 43 minutes,” he says into his cellphone, which rings about every five minutes.

Townsend helps someone on the other end of the phone find the elusive poker chips, and glances at his laptop screen. He just sent a message to Dixie Roadhouse’s approximately 6,900 Facebook fans, letting them know the soft opening is a go for tonight.

“We’ll see how powerful Facebook is,” he smiles.

Stressful as a speedy opening might be, Townsend appears calm he’s in his element. The North Carolina native grew up working in hotel clubs across the South, and has developed nightclubs for decades.

He and partner Lynn Pippenger most recently operated Saddle Up in Chicago. They wanted to end their relationship with partners in that venture and set out to start a new club.

The couple, who have a 5 year old guess factory son, Paul, checked out about 225 commercial properties on the Internet, and took three road trips to visit 25 buildings in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

The Cape locale they chose had become a frequent late night stop for police as the Bamboo Club before it closed in 2007. More than 13 years ago, though, the 10,000 square foot club was known as the country bar the Hired Hand, and the space still had the makings for a country themed venue, including a more than 2,500 square foot floor for lin guess factory e dancing.

Plus, the Southwest Florida radio market boasts three country stations, hinting there’s a strong audience for the music, said Townsend, whose club will play contemporary country tunes mixed with Top 40, rock and dance later in the night.

“Cape Coral has needed something like this for a while,” said bartender Lynn DiSomma, 31. “We’re trying to change the reputation of what was here before.”

Now, Townsend and Pippenger are becoming acclimated to the Cape, and are working to roll out the full club concept over the next month. Tonight is only the first taste.

And they’re already looking to expand Dixie Roadh guess factory ouse. A club they won’t operate but are helping to develop should open in Austin, Texas, in November. Next, they’ll look at opening Dixie Roadhouses in cities such as Sarasota, West Palm Beach and perhaps Nashville.

As kickoff for the 818 person capacity Cape Coral club crept near, a man sloshed beer bottles in an ice filled aluminum tub and line dance instructor Pam Winger took the mic.

As patrons started to file in and boots began to sashay across the hardwood, there was no doubt Townsend would make his way to the dance floor to revel in the action. The behind the scenes bustle is worth it to the club owner when he sees partygoers let loose.

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