Like the old bobcats that roamed around town during its early beginnings, New Year's Eve revelers in Los Gatos gave loud meows and hisses as they celebrated the start of 2012 just after midnight, Jan. 1.
At the iconic The Cats Restaurant & Tavern, which held its official grand-opening celebration Saturday evening, owner David Peterson was busy helping a packed crowd celebrate the New Year as well.
For the past three-and-half years, Peterson and co-owner Mark Edwards said they had worked hard to re-open the restaurant located just south of downtown at 17533 Santa Cruz Highway.
Peterson said such an overwhelming amount of customers wanted to attend the restaurant's New Year's Eve celebration, that it couldn't accommodate everyone.
It sold out of the $95 tickets for the evening, which included an all-you-could-eat dinner, hors d'oeuvres, a midnight champagne toast and free appetizers until 1 a.m.
Live entertainment was also provided by jazz pianist Will Nichols and Jackie Turner and Friends, who moved a happy crowd to soulful rhythm-and-blues songs.
"We've received a ton of support from local people," Peterson said. "This place is an institution. This building has so much significance to so many people. It's a historical place where many residents came here with their parents, friends and others who are no longer with them. This was their local pub."
Peterson and Edwards bought the restaurant from The establishment was closed in December of 2006.
Peterson and Edwards said they tried for six months to get a bank to loan them money to buy the restaurant. They finally closed escrow in August of 2008 and began working on repairing the building and doing termite damage control.
However, Santa Clara County officials red-tagged the building after Peterson and Edwards replaced a beam, which later required structural engineering drawings, the said. The restaurant also had problems with its use permit, which took a while to iron out.
The owners spent another year trying to reopen working with an architect to get their plans approved by the county and spent most of 2011 remodeling.
They also conducted seismic upgrades, installed steel beams, new electrical wiring and plumbing. And they decorated the restaurant with antique items, such as a redwood baton board that's now near the main entrance and is typical of the 1800s, an antique door with beveled glass and a copper-tin ceiling, also popular in saloons in the 1800s.
A gun cabinet behind the hostess' stand contains old rifles and pistols. A sign reads: "Cowboys leave your guns at the bar."
"We wanted to go back in time," Peterson noted. "We're trying to play into the whole Western saloon. The building was originally a stage coach stop and a weigh station for horse-drawn lumber wagons."
During the '20s, Peterson said it was rumored that the building was used as a speakeasy and a bordello and then it became one of the neighborhood's rowdy social clubs and then a biker bar.
Although it's located on Santa Cruz Highway, the canyon that almost hides it from those driving southbound on Highway 17 is called "Cats' Canyon," he said.
April Little, from Sunnyvale, said she's always been a strong supporter of The Cats, frequenting it often before it closed. "We love the food here, the surroundings and the people," she said. "The entertainment has always been outstanding."
A soft opening was held Dec. 10 that included a celebration of the Los Gatos Social Club at $35 a head, with $10 per person donated to the 's K-9 unit. Peterson said the club was founded at The Cats.
At , New Year's partiers spilled over onto the streets, many having consumed too many drinks, but taking taxis home for the evening.
Los Gatos-Monte Sereno police were patrolling the downtown area and two officers were seen inside , which was also packed and jamming to the music of DJ Vinyl.
Surprisingly, nearby was opened as the midnight hour approached. The popular pizzeria is usually open until 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Los Gatos resident Alex Salciccia was outside Carry Nations smoking a cigarette and waiting for the traditional New Year's countdown to begin.
"I love coming here for New Year's," he said. "They [Carry Nations] don't have a cover [charge], the people are laid back, the bouncers are chill, the vibe is good and the drinks are fairly priced."