Changes Afoot at SD Music Clubs

Three San Diego live music venues are facing some big changes

I remember walking into O’Connells Pub & Nightclub back in the day, guitar in hand, thrilled to play a show with my band -- and being bemused by the place. As a neighborhood bar, it was perfect: Dim lighting, loyal, friendly patrons and cold beer. These things are important when trying to decide on a place to drink. As a live-music venue, though, it had potential but never quite reached the level it could have. Mainly, the place just seemed content to be there, serving its frosty brews to buds.
Unsurprisingly, O’Connells ended up being sold, remodeled and reopened as the Griffin in July 2011. Sure, the place shares the same address at 1310 Morena Blvd, but it couldn’t be more different than its predecessor. It’s a legitimately cool place to hang out and see bands. Over the last three years, they’ve gained traction as a respectable live-music venue, hosting their share of more than a few big name bands and providing a quality place to see music outside of the usual haunts of the Belly Up, the Casbah and Soda Bar. We’ve even hosted a pair of SoundDiego LIVE events there, most recently with the Nervous Wreckords and Saint Diego in September (see the gallery here).  
Recently, however, the club was listed for sale for $215,000 on We reached out to the listing’s agent, Paul Ahern, for a statement, and he confirmed that the Griffin was for sale but demurred when asked for details, saying that the club's owner had asked him not talk with the media about the sale. And when we spoke with the Griffin's booking manager, Joe Rinaldi, he told us that "we hope to announce our next phase in the coming days."
In yet another hit to the local music scene, it appears that the Void in North Park has moved on from hosting at least some of the shows it has in the past. Multiple sources told SoundDiego that the club has, in fact, been sold. While we've yet to hear if the Void is changing names, the venue is currently closed during what appears to be an extensive renovation. SoundDiego tried to contact the Void for comment mulitple times but has yet to receive a reply.
“The venue is already going through a remodel and upon re-opening, will be more of a neighborhood bar and will no longer host shows," said FM94/9 DJ and SoundDiego contributor Tim Pyles. "I believe a couple shows booked by the Casbah will still be happening, but after that -- no more shows.”
At least one show slated for the Void was moved. Wild Ones, a Portland, Ore., band that was originally sheduled to play there on Jan. 17 will now, instead, make a stop at the Whistle Stop Bar in South Park on the same date. 
Situated just a block down El Cajon Boulevard from Soda Bar, the Void has had its share of difficulty finding an identity over the last few years, transitioning from the Zombie Lounge to the Radio Room to Eleven before settling into its Void incarnation.
Rosemary Bystrak, of SD:Dialed In (and SoundDiego contributor), doesn't seem too concerned: "Since I live nearby, I hope the new changes are good for the neighborhood and provide a new hangout, but if not, the city has enough going on without it." 
For local concertgoers, the number of places to see live shows in San Diego just keeps dwindling. Over the last year or so, we’ve lost Anthology, 4th & B, Voyeur and the Void. We are hoping, of course, that the list will not include the Griffin.
Pyles had a slightly more optimistic take on it.
“I will miss being able to go back and forth between the Void and Soda Bar," Pyles said. "But at this point, with so many venues hosting shows and the lack of a large local music fan base to support them, one less venue isn’t a bad thing.” 
Bystrak echoed that sentiment: "I enjoyed the Void, but for me it wasn't around long enough to impact the music scene. There were great shows and underattended shows and numerous bookers and a popular karaoke night, but other than the benefit of hopping between Soda Bar and the Void, there are enough places for live music...maybe too many still."
Updated 1:30 p.m., Sunday Jan. 12: In even more local music venue news, we've confirmed that Brick by Brick's alcohol license has been suspended, as of Dec. 13. According to the California Department of Alchoholic Beverage Control, the suspension carries a term of 12 months. While it's not clear whether the club will be able to lift the suspension at some point, there's likely to be financial repercussions.
Not everyone seems to think the situation is dire, however. After a Dec. 15 show at the venue by Jake E. Lee's new band, Red Dragon Cartel, Rock Guitar Daily blogger, Tony Conley, appreciated the newly-sober rock environment: "San Diego's Brick By Brick is one of the premier rock clubs in the West, and even they were down a notch, having lost their liquor license.This wasn't looking good. Thankfully, I can report that this was one of the best nights I've had all year. Brick By Brick was packed to the gills with none of the drunken stupidity that can render a metal crowd stupid, and both Brosh and Lee played sets that could easily be called blinders."  
We'll be keeping a close eye on any further developments, but wish these clubs the best of luck.

Dustin Lothspeich plays in Old Tiger, Diamond Lakes, Chess Wars and Boy King. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.

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