One Year Later Clubs Still Closed For Crisis

 

It's been nearly one year since the plug was pulled from the indoor music scene. Bars and restaurants are still unable to operate indoors, but outdoors, live music is available with certain restrictions. 

In Laguna, there are only four bars licensed to serve alcohol but not food. Due to the pandemic, these four bars couldn't be open and risk the virus's spread in their enclosed environments.

At The Sandpiper Lounge, aka The Dirty Bird, Owner Chuck Harrell, his wife Jeannie, and sons Grant and Spencer quickly got to work on renovations. They installed a beautifully wood-crafted new bar top etched with Sandpipers and replaced the decades-old carpet. Last June, the brief reopening allowed for live acoustic in the bar area, but the dance floor was off-limits. In December, Locals For Laguna Beach held a fundraiser for The Dirty Bird at Mozambique. Merchandise created for the event spilled over to their first website: SandpiperLounge.com, where you can show your support and buy the hats, T's, and sweatshirts, and coupons for drinks you can redeem when the bar reopens!

The Marine Room Tavern and The Saloon in the downtown area are designed for social gathering, not social distancing, and will remain closed until further notice. Good luck to our friend Charles, who managed the excellent times at Marine Room Tavern, for starting his cocktail mixer delivery service @merry.makers.

It's been a trying time for Wendy Nelson, Owner of Main Street Bar and Cabaret, Laguna's Only Gay Bar. At the start of the shutdown, they partnered with the Pizza Bar downtown to deliver pizza and Main Street libations, but eventually, the effort lost momentum. Instead, she focused on putting in 1,000 hours of cleaning and revamping, and in her opinion, the bar looks gorgeous! 

Previously owned by her brother, Wendy vowed to keep the bar running smoothly and stands behind her mission to be a haven for the LGBTQ community. Unfortunately, acts of violence and hatred towards her bar are always a concern, and in July, someone threw a Molotov cocktail through the window. It could have discharged a bomb of destruction, but miraculously, it didn't. As far as reopening, they are at the mercy of the State of California, particularly Governor Newsom, with whom she has a hard time reckoning. In the meantime, Wendy and her landlord have a verbal agreement, and she is determined to see it through.

A handful of restaurants ingeniously created a safe, outdoor environment and a platform to offer live music while dining to give their patrons a way to enjoy an evening out.

In a swift move to utilize the spacious upper parking lot for outdoor seating, Mozambique has been a solid choice for live music during the pandemic. They installed a tent to allow air to circulate with heat lamps during the winter months. At the time of this article, Andrew Bloom and Koko Powell perform R&B and pop favorites Fridays and Saturdays. Andrew Bloom says he is grateful to have the gigs at Mozambique, but before the pandemic, he was performing at private gigs on the weekend, events that have been postponed or canceled. A tight, mellow, four-piece band keeps the reggae vibe alive on Sundays with Bob Hawkins, Rock Deadrick, Michael Hyde, and Fully Fullwood. 

The Cliff Restaurant filmed a Facebook Live Stream Concert with Robert Jon and The Wreck last spring without an audience, but the outdoor Fireside Lounge is too intimate for safe distancing. After speaking recently with the General Manager, Andrew Turula, he said they are planning to bring back live music. As soon as they figure out the right formula, they will kick it off and start marketing. If everything works out well and executed safely, it will likely continue and go from midweek to every day of the week. Stay tuned to LagunaNOW.com for the launch dates.

A year ago, the Yard Bar didn't exist. Due to Lumberyard's Cary Redfern's fast action, the Lumberyard Courtyard's adjacent patio became the restaurant's outdoor version with a striking, portable bar and live music. Bob Hawkins jams Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays with music power couples, either Beth and Steve Wood, Rock and Gail Deadrick, or Suzanne Morissette Cruz and Bobby Cruz.

At Zinc Cafe, the outdoor patio expanded to the parking lot to add more breathing room and a cordoned-off area for the Jorg Dubin Jazz Trio to play on Fridays and Saturdays during the summer.

Hennessey's Tavern got inventive and, with the City Manager's permission, made use of the public corridor from the back of the Tavern to the Coast Hwy. It is dubbed "Dublin Square," and Happy Hour priced appetizers are always served along with drinks and live music, seven nights in the summer months and currently Friday through Sunday. Regular Nicolas Fresard gigs as a studio musician in L.A. to ease the loss of live gigs, and he's glad to be back at Hennessey's Dublin Square. He said he felt a little rusty, but we didn't notice at all!

When outdoor dining resumed at The Ranch at Laguna Beach, solo, acoustic musicians switched to the Sage Patio. The music has shifted back to the more extensive Harvest Patio, where they have a tent and heaters for a more enjoyable dining experience.

There are far too many local musicians to contact, and most have a social presence you can connect with, but here are a few that came across our radar.

Robbie Steffen created a Wednesday "Blanket and Picnic Happy Hour" at Bluebird Park, taking acoustic requests from guests. He also enjoyed supplying the musical vibe for Yoga Sessions with Laura Love in Treasure Island Park. He used this period to work on a compilation of songs, including "The Quarantine Blues," a parody of the trials and tribulations of being in quarantine.

Steve Maggiora, a master of the keys, went inward and got madly creative! On his Patreon platform, he released an original song twice a week, totaling 730 recordings in 2020, from his home studio. Many are part of his piano recordings he calls "The Isolation Series" You can support what he refers to as "his therapy" by subscribing to www.patreon.com/stevethewreck.

Before the pandemic hit, Steve had plans to tour Europe with Robert Jon and the Wreck to promote their new record and hopes to resume that this summer. Steve also became the keyboardist for the 70's American rock band TOTO and filmed a Live Stream Concert. Touring plans worldwide with TOTO are definitely on the horizon. Steve is still keeping his skills sharp and just began a residency at Peninsula Kitchen and Bar in Newport Beach, Wednesdays from 7-10 pm on the outdoor patio.

Anesha Rose worried that the absence of live gigs wouldn't keep her vocal cords in shape, and losing the callouses on her guitar playin' fingertips concerned her. She found a way to play live and keep it safe by doing balcony gigs she coined "Balcony Sesh with 'Nesh" for friends and neighbors. Anesha would sing and play for tips for up to four hours, and the host invited a taco truck to feed everyone. She went from 17 gigs in bars to 5 per month on driveways or balconies. It keeps her sane, keeps the chops up, plus it brings so much happiness to people. She says, "If you can give it, you've got to give it."

COVID-19 has taught her what matters is to do what you love and make that your career even though her Fire Protection business job provides reliable income. When bars reopened outdoors, she grabbed the gigs she could get, including San Juan Rancho Capistrano Winery, Trevors at the Tracks, Blind Pig & Scarlet Kitchen in Santa Margarita, Sawdust Outdoor Marketplace, and THREE fiftieth backyard birthday parties! 

Another pandemic positive is the acquisition of her one-woman band setup. Her new cordless BOSE PA is small but mighty! It gives her a charge of 7 or 8 hours of electricity and the freedom to work remotely. Words of Anesha Wisdom: "Life will treat you kind if you treat it kindly."

Jason Feddy was about to take Las Vegas by storm with a string of bookings for his tribute to Joe Cocker, Mad Dogs and The Englishman, but the pandemic took center stage. Jason played his heart out for tips at the Forest Avenue Promenade until performances went on hiatus for the winter months. Hopefully, it will start up again soon. Suppose you needed a dose of Jason's anecdotal humor together with his acoustic guitar and vast musical library? In that case, he holds a Pageant of the Mattress sing-song on Facebook Live, Sundays at noon Pacific. 

During the brief early summer bar reopening, Ron I. and the World Anthem Band realized a dream when Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony of Van Halen and drummer Jason Bonham joined them on stage at Black Knight Lounge in Costa Mesa. It's one of those Black Knight nights where you just had to be there! 

Tony Cox is one of the most supportive people of live music in town. He's always planning live events as coordinator and booking agent for Tightrope Entertainment with partner Lynn Faye. Tony also spearheaded the non-profit Laguna Foundation for the Arts to bring art and music together for charitable causes. During the past year, he found satisfying work in local construction projects and says it's been good to be working outdoors.

He is hopeful this spring and summer will be a positive direction for the virus, and warm weather will allow outdoor venues to thrive once again. 

Tony’s comment sums up this article perfectly, "Music brings people together, and we all need it right now."

 

 

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