NOLANVILLE — Sandy’s Lone Star Events center is only a part-time operation these days, hosting weddings, high school reunions, charity concerts and other family-friendly functions, but there was a two-decade stretch when the former nightclub on Farm to Market Road 439 was a sometimes wild weekend hotspot.
“We were the place to be,” explained owner Cleat Roberts, whose dad, Sandy, opened the original Sandy’s in 1975. “We had great bands come in here. Matchbox 20 played here; David Lee Roth (of Van Halen fame). The cover bands we had on the weekends were phenomenal.
“When I closed the bar, we had 46 employees, and we were doing $1.2 million a year in alcohol sales. On a regular Friday and Saturday (night), there were probably 700 people in here. It was a good little bar.”
All good things come to an end, the old saying goes, and for Sandy’s nightclub in Nolanville, just east of Killeen-Fort Hood, it was a tragedy that led to last call.
“My dad bought the original place in 1975 — it was a tin building down the road — when I was still in high school,” said Cleat, a Killeen native who graduated from Killeen High in 1977.
“What happened was, dad ran the back of the house, and I ran the front of the house. So I dealt with the bands, the employees, the customers … and my dad did all the paperwork. Took care of the money, and everything that goes with operating a bar business.
“When he died (in 1999), I never could find a guy that would do that, so I did it for another three years. Then, we were in Sturgis, South Dakota (home of the famous nationwide motorcycle rally) with some friends, and one of my best friends got killed right in front of me on a motorcycle,” Roberts said, his voice catching with emotion at the memory.
“He used to own the Harley shop here — Ron Hall. And that was it. I said, ‘I’m done.’
“I closed about three weeks later. That was 2002.”
One of the regular events at the revamped Sandy’s that makes Roberts the most proud is the annual Que for Kids fundraiser, designed to raise money to support child abuse prevention, neglect and family violence in Central Texas. The event includes a sanctioned barbecue cook-off, concerts, auction, and an assortment of other fun and games.
Last year, featured entertainers included country singer Neal McCoy, and The Spazmatics. With another Que for Kids coming up next April, Roberts said proceeds from the event donated to charity have totaled more than $200,000 over the past five years.
“That whole field over there will be full of half-million-dollar motorhomes, and forty-thousand-dollar barbecue rigs,” he said, smiling. “That time of year is a lot of fun.”