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Photograph by Dan Pulcrano

Club Life

Sofa Lounge
374 S. First St, San Jose; 408.294.SOFA; www.sofaloungesj.com

By Todd Inoue


Amenities: Two bars, DJs, live music, sitting spaces, located above Eulipia restaurant
Ambience: Bohemian funk

FROM THE mid-'80s to the '90s, the space that occupies 374 S. First St. was the center of an artistic movement where lines of class, culture and hair length were regularly mixed and tossed together. As Upstairs @ Eulipia and, later, the Ajax Lounge, the loft space above the Eulipia restaurant cultivated a cosmopolitan vibe unmatched in the city. It attracted suits, punks, dreads, poets, desperate housewives and bohos—all united under a funky brick archway. Its clientele fomented a community space helmed by people who cared about music and conversation. I remember seeing Charlie Hunter, Ledisi, Groove Collective, the Roots, the Fugees, Alejandro Escovedo, Ben Harper and Cake there before they all blew up. I also spent a lot of time chilling in the DJ booth talking records with whoever was spinning or chopping it up outside with the door guys. It was fun times that many old-time clubbers hold close.

When the creative nexus behind Ajax left due to a renegotiating dispute, the feeling changed. A new era under Jacek Rosicki began in the late '90s as the B-Hive opened its doors with a face-lift and Top 40 music. And up until Aug. 20, the club has been under the supervision of Menassa Abinader, who ran San Jose's biggest small hip-hop club under the B-Hive name. After a two-year search, Abinader and rapper E-40 moved the operation down to San Pedro Square to the roomier Ambassador's Lounge.

Now, co-owners Tim Littlefield and Eulipia's Mike Borkenhagen open the Sofa Lounge with an eye on the past, as well as the future. "There's an artistic community that's kind of been disenfranchised ever since Fuel closed," says the Campbell-bred Littlefield, who worked bars at South First Billiards, the Usual, Voodoo Lounge, Glo and most recently the Cardiff Lounge. "Downtown has changed dramatically over the past six years," he says, and he hopes that the art crowd that fled to suburban spots will give downtown's original club district another chance.

To that end, they've added handsome microfiber sectional seating areas. They plan to blend live music and DJ nights, including an open mic where sessions can be recorded and emailed back to the participants. The music focus will change, as well. Out goes the booty bass, in comes the soulful house and funky breaks. Littlefield's in conversation with Velvet Shop, and his list of DJ callbacks is 25 deep.

To that end, they've added handsome microfiber sectional seating areas. They plan to blend live music and DJ nights, including an open mic where sessions can be recorded and emailed back to the participants. The music focus will change, as well. Out goes the booty bass, in comes the soulful house and funky breaks. Littlefield's in conversation with Velvet Shop, and his list of DJ callbacks is 25 deep.

For those old-school San Jose clubbers still hung up on the Ajax Lounge, Sofa Lounge will bring back fond memories. It's already a place where California Theatre ticket holders, Rep patrons and cinéastes—or anyone looking for a good conversation and a drink—can warm up or cool down. Patrons will be able to order food from the Eulipia kitchen or enjoy a post-Rigoletto nightcap. "It'll be a warm comfortable atmosphere," Littlefield says. "There will be no mainstream hip-hop. I want the bar to be a place I can come to 20 years from now."

A grand opening party is scheduled for Jan. 22. Check the website for details.


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From the January 5-11, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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