Wednesday was date night for Richard and Lori Marando, of Centereach. They had a babysitter for their kids, so with Richard in his cowboy hat, they headed to the Nutty Irishman, the only local country bar they’ve heard of -- if only for one night.
At the beginning of March, the Bay Shore bar began sponsoring country nights on Wednesdays, complete with a western-themed menu, drink specials and countrified decorations throughout the bar. The real draw, though, are the line-dancing lessons, which brought in hundreds of people the first two weeks, said manager Joe Wynne.
The weekly event starts at 7 p.m., when dance instructor Lauren Leggio encourages everyone onto the dance floor. She goes over each step of a dance for about 10 minutes, before the DJ cues the music and everyone tries it out.
“The only thing you have to know about line dancing is your left foot from your right foot,” she told the patrons that approached the floor with hesitation.
Leggio said the country nights have been a lot of fun and that the atmosphere is always welcoming, which is characteristic of country music and its followers.
“Country music is about dancing,” she said. “So nobody is judging you here because everyone is dancing.”
The Nutty Irishman “went country” when new country music station “My Country 96.1 FM” began its broadcasts, said Kim Greis, a waitress at the bar, who along with fellow employees are decked out in their country best each week.
The station broadcasts live from the Nutty Irishman from 7 to 10 p.m. It is the only country music station that is based on Long Island.
“They brought country back to Long Island,” she said. “I’m really excited. We would listen to a Connecticut country station and that was the closest we could get.”
Matt Cantore, a bartender at the Nutty Irishman, said he sees a different crowd at the bar on Wednesdays because everyone is there to dance and to learn.
“Anyone can learn,” he said, adding that he’s tried out a few steps himself, though he’s no expert yet.
Beverly Marcus, of Smithtown, goes line dancing with friends at least twice a week, she said, sometimes more.
“Wherever they have it on the Island, we go,” she said.
It was her first time at the Nutty Irishman on Wednesday and she said she was impressed with the dance floor from the beginning.
“We normally don’t dance in a bar atmosphere and we miss that,” she said. “So this will be a fun, fun kind of dancing for us.”
For the Marandos, Wednesday night was a chance to break out the old dancing shoes. The couple used to take line dancing lessons, but Lori Marando said they hadn’t been out dancing since their children, ages 5 and 7, were born.
“We haven’t been out to a country bar in years,” she said. When Leggio started belting out instructions from the front of the dance floor, the couple was out of their seats and stationed right in the middle of the room.
And they seemed to remember the steps just fine.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she said.
Photo: Line dancing instructor Lauren Leggio leads a group of dancers at the Nutty Irishman in Bay Shore. (March 23, 2011)