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Cooling his jets: Tom Gaffey of the Phoenix Theatre

Club Update

Inn out, Phoenix busted, Powerhouse powers up

By Patrick Sullivan and Paula Harris

CLUBS ARE CLOSING, clubs are in trouble with the cops, and new clubs are springing up in the last places you'd expect. So it goes on the live-music scene in Sonoma County, where turmoil is a way of life and fans quickly learn to expect the unexpected.

Let's start with the bad news. First, the Phoenix Theatre in Petaluma is in trouble again. Longtime Phoenix manager Tom Gaffey won't provide many details, but he's not happy with the Petaluma Police Department and the City Manager's Office. "We're back to doing battle with the city again," Gaffey says. "I think I kind of got ambushed here."

Partly because of that pressure, Gaffey is concentrating on local bands for now, rather than hosting the big-name touring acts like Goldfinger and NOFX that were hitting the Phoenix for a while. One new offering: local high school bands will play the club every Wednesday at 8 p.m. through August.

There's trouble of a more terminal nature over at the Inn of the Beginning. The legendary Cotati music venue will probably shut its doors for good in July, according to owner Scott Wagner. The club is unprofitable, and Wagner just lost his job in the high- tech crash, so he can no longer subsidize the music venue. The only way out? Wagner says the community can save the club by delivering both money and a vision for the future at two upcoming public meetings on June 19 and 21. For details, call 707/664-1522.

Bummed yet? Well, don't fret, 'cause there's a bit of good news too. A couple of new venues seem to be humming along fairly well: the Jazz Jam Cafe in Sebastopol and Felix and Louie's Restaurant and Bar in Healdsburg are both operating smoothly. And Clo's Parkside Grill in Santa Rosa is back to offering live music.

Most surprising event: a new all-ages music venue has just opened its doors in Rohnert Park, of all places. The Vision, a new teen center owned and operated by the city of Rohert Park, started staging shows by local bands in May. A group of students from Rancho Cotate High School assists with the programming under the supervision of John Hartnett, the city's manager of Recreation and Services.

"We're just feeling it out, seeing what the kids want and how things go," Hartnett says. The next show at the Vision, which is located at 450 Civic Center Drive, takes Saturday, June 16, and features S.E.E.D., Stygian Creek, and others. For details, call 707/588-3474.

And finally, the Powerhouse Brewing Co.--a brew pub and live-music venue on Petaluma Avenue in Sebastopol--is getting a bit of a makeover. The Powerhouse is doubling the size of its outdoor beer garden with the addition of a large grass lawn, an outdoor stage area, and expanded al fresco dining.

The new beer garden, in an area that used to be a parking lot, will provide seating for more than 100 people. "We encourage people to bring lawn furniture and blankets," says Powerhouse owner Bill Brandt. "We're going to be getting some music in there pretty fast."

In addition to a series of outdoor concerts (tentatively featuring such artists as the Dirty Dozen, Los Hombres Calientes, and the Dave Nelson Band), Brandt promises a musical Friday night happy hour. "We're going to drag the piano outside under the trees and have local piano players perform," he says.

Although Brandt comments that noise will have to be kept "toned down," he adds that even though he's had to wait a while for all the necessary permits, the city has been pretty receptive to the project. The first outdoor show is planned for next month, and outdoor entertainment will run from late spring until mid-fall each year. The Powerhouse's regular live entertainment will continue inside.

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

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