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Monday, January 18, 2010

Poleng Lounge to Close in Jan., Anna's Jazz Island Closed

Posted By on Mon, Jan 18, 2010 at 3:47 PM

Poleng Lounge, soon to be R.I.P.
  • Poleng Lounge, soon to be R.I.P.
January is a bad month for pink slips. Not only have I been getting multiple goodbye emails from publicists laid off from their jobs at the labels in the past week, but now I'm getting word about local venues that are shuttering in 2010. The biggest among them is Poleng Lounge, the Western Addition (or NOPA, if you prefer) restaurant/nightclub/live music venue. (After hitting the sweaty-fun Dam-Funk show there back in December, I'd add "steam room" to that list).

The space has been host to a number of music related events since opening three and a half years ago. They've had music documentary screenings and DJ-fueled dance parties, all of which take over where the restaurant ends. Co-founder Desi Danganan wrote on the venue's blog, "2009 was a rough year and 2010 promises to be a better year."

John Birdsall, SFoodie Editor, interviewed Danganan on Thursday, and gave more details of the space's demise:

No surprise that Poleng's slowdown started with the economic collapse

of late 2008. "We lost a good portion of our Michael Bauer diners,

empty-nesters living off their 401(k)s," he said. "We restructured our

menu and staff to make it lean and mean, but it wasn't enough." Poleng

started lunch service late last year, which Danganan said helped make

payroll, but couldn't save the business.

Poleng will host live music through the end of January--last call for booze and tunes is the 31st. The restaurant will close this Sunday.

**UPDATE: I just spoke with Danganan, who is more than just a business owner. He's been a promoter for nine years, working with the Massive Selector crew, who put on two annually sold out events (among other gigs), the Stevie Wonder tribute Wonderfull and Soul Slam, the huge Prince vs. Michael Jackson event. Danganan says it was always a dream of his to jump from promoting events to owning a space where he could house emerging talent. But the reality is "the best music doesn't always sell," he laments. "It's a double edged sword."

The club had some notable events in its time, though. Beyond Dam-Funk, there was a private Ozomatli day show/benefit for 75 people, as well as one of DJ Medhi's first San Francisco shows and a James Lavelle gig.

Danganan says much of his and the rest of the Massive Selector crew's energy will now go towards new Mission venue SOM., whose owners have a close relationship with the Massive folks. (That bar will also be getting much of Poleng's furniture, and shares a design consultant.) And while Danganan has dreams of taking a break for a bit, possibly traveling to India, he imagines the rest of his gang will help SOM. with events where they can.

There will be a giant "Last Call" closing party at Poleng on Friday, Jan. 29 with a ton of heavy hitters in the Bay Area DJ scene: Sake One and J-Boogie, Mr. E, Vinroc, Proof, Hakobo, King Most, Green Tea, and tons more (nearly two-dozen total).  The party starts at 9, and the sliding scale $5-$10 donation will go to Haiti earthquake relief via Oxfam.

The Poleng space has a long history as a music venue, operating as a haven for fans of jazz, funk, and punk before Danganan took it over from Storyville's owners. Danganan is sorry to see it go, in part because he says it was a place of pride for Filipino culture, which was a big part of the cuisine, the bookings, and the crowds at Poleng. "Venues come and go," he says, "but venues that leave a mark build a community and a scene."

For East Bay jazz fans, the other club closure that's made news is Anna's Jazz Island. The venue unexpectedly had to shut its doors, and sent this letter to Groove Yard in regards to the problems plaguing their space:

Unfortunately, we encountered a string of broken promises on the part of the developer, and a pro-development majority on the city council, which refused to enforce the commitment to the arts. The developer rented out the theater next door to private parties. Some of you have personally experienced these rowdy and disruptive events, with armed guards at the entrance, with hundreds of young adults in the street, where the block was entirely blocked off by police cars and the "parties" closed by dozens of police officers, and where jazz lovers could not get in or out of the club. Many evenings, it has been profoundly difficult for us to present music. (For more details, Google "Gaia Building Party Police" for news articles.) For some time now, we have considered other locations.
Which leads to the present moment. The new owner wished to terminate our lease and made an offer we couldn't refuse. We are now looking for a new space and a new partner, somebody who loves jazz, to participate in opening a new venue. We have palm trees, ten years of goodwill in the jazz community, a huge e-mail list, and a loyal audience looking for a new musical home. We know the musicians are ready to play! We shall see what life brings...

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Ian S. Port


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