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[whitespace] Dave Daher
Photograph by Michael Amsler

Music man: Last Day Saloon Santa Rosa owner Dave Daher

New Day Dawns

Last Day Saloon owner sets up second shop in Santa Rosa

By Paula Harris

"WHAT THE HELL IS this for?" bellowed Dave Daher. A Camel Light gripped between his fingers, Daher stabbed at a mysterious gash marring a freshly sheet-rocked wall inside his new nightclub, the Last Day Saloon in Santa Rosa. Then he barked just two words to the group of construction workers cowering in his wake: "Fix it!"

All around the club, dozens of contractors were scrambling to complete their work in a space filled with piles of construction equipment and power cords snaking across the floor.

On that stressful, chaotic day, Daher, 52, a solid guy with a graying beard, grumbled in his gravelly voice that he didn't know when the new Last Day Saloon would open.

But now, just days later, the place is up and running.

Daher and his crew have totally transformed the space at Fifth and Davis streets that formerly housed Rumors nightclub. There's a new wooden dance floor, a raised stage for live bands, new walls, a revamped roof, an $80,000 sound system, carpeting, and bathrooms.

The 8,000-square-foot club will also boast a lobby, a restaurant, bars, and a "VIP room" with its own dimmers, sound systems, and fireplace.

In former incarnations the building in Railroad Square has been a variety of clubs, including the Daily Planet, City Limits, the Funhouse, and, most recently, Rumors. But Daher, a 13-year resident of Santa Rosa who lives just six minutes away from his new venture, has been eyeing the building for years and plans to make Last Day last.

"I bought the building. This is a lifetime commitment for me," he explains. "I will never sell. It will be in my family's name forever."

Indeed, longevity is something of a guiding principle for Daher, who has owned and run San Francisco's Last Day Saloon for 28 years--making it the longest operating single-owner club in Northern California.

Upstairs in his small airless office, Daher pushes aside a half-eaten sandwich and begins dealing with a parade of workers by signing checks and barking out orders. Some recoil, but others, the ones that have known Daher for years, banter and even exchange playful insults.

On the wall, an ad for the latest Madonna concert is pinned up with a message scrawled across it in ballpoint pen: "Dad, please get your daughter tickets--it's sold out!" That's probably a task the venerable bar owner can accomplish with no sweat. No stranger to the music biz, Daher has booked some 9,500 bands over the years, including John Lee Hooker, Etta James, and Taj Mahal, plus big-name comedians such as Robin Williams.

"I want to bring a big comedian show up here, and I'm also going to be bringing in acts from throughout the USA, Canada, and Europe," Daher promises.

Last Day Saloon Santa Rosa will be open seven nights a week and will feature live music on at least four of those, including blues, rock, and funk. In addition, there will be a country music night, a hospitality night for karaoke, hula hoop contests, and waiter races. "Hey, maybe we'll even play Spin the Bottle," Daher says with a laugh. "People don't know how to have fun, and we want to show them on Monday nights, when everything else is closed."

Daher plans to split his time between his two clubs. "I'm really putting my time in," he says. "When you create something like this it's really a big deal, and if you plan on being here a long time and you don't feel here [he puts a hand on his heart] that you're doing a good thing, then it's just too much work."

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From the June 14-20, 2001 issue of the Northern California Bohemian.

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