San Diego's seen an unusually high number of temporary or permanent venue closures in the past year-and-a-half, including—but not limited to—4th and B, Anthology, The Griffin, The Ruby Room, The Void and Brick by Brick. And on Monday, July 14, there will be one more to add to that list: The Che Café.
The closure didn't come as a surprise—the 35-year-old all-ages collective battled for two months with UCSD over funding for building repairs and was then evicted by the university.
From a distance, the Che might just look like an old, wooden structure painted with leftist murals that just happens to host shows by anarchist punk bands. But it's more than that. It's a haven for hippies and punks, and you'll probably see a dude wearing a skirt. In other words, it stands at odds with UCSD's pristine image. And that's partly why it's a shame to see the venue shut its doors, possibly for good.
At a series of meetings in May, numerous volunteers gave passionate testimonials about how The Che Café changed their lives, and how it's one of the most historically important music venues in San Diego, if not all of Southern California.
And they're absolutely right; the Che has hosted a mind-blowing number of important bands, including Green Day, The Dismemberment Plan, Bon Iver and At the Drive-In. It's credited on Wikipedia for being the venue that gave birth to the "screamo" subgenre of hardcore punk, and in the 1990s, the Che held a number of shows featuring now-legendary local bands like Drive Like Jehu and The Locust.
Legacy isn't everything, though. The bigger loss is the disappearance of another all-ages venue in San Diego. As a 32-year-old married guy with a taste for bourbon and beer, I spend a lot of time watching live bands in bars—but I was thankful to have the Che as a youngster, and I saw some great shows there before I was allowed to set foot inside The Casbah.
The Che's volunteers intend to keep up the fight, but whatever happens, it'll be closed indefinitely on Monday. Maybe it's just a building, but it's one that meant a lot to a lot of people.