Trouble in the 'hood
Those whispers you may have heard about Hillcrest's Universal Nightclub being sold by its parent company, EnDev Enterprises LLC, which runs Stingaree, Bar West and other chic venues around town, aren't accurate.
“There's so many rumors flying around about this place,” said James Brennan, EnDev CEO and partner, “and none of them are true.”
Brennan is clearly frustrated. A fast-talking native New Yorker, he'd just been delivered a copy of a memorandum sent from San Diego City Councilmember Toni Atkins' office to Mayor Jerry Sanders on Oct. 1. The memo detailed five concerns about Universal that community members had brought up at a Sept. 2 meeting of the Uptown Planners, a group that advises the city on neighborhood issues.
“Does the sidewalk along University Avenue meet [Americans with Disabilities Act] requirements?” asks the first bullet point on the memo. The rest are similarly technical and address things like the lack of street trees in front of the club, design guidelines and whether or not the club should have applied for a Neighborhood Development Permit for its outdoor-café component.
“To me, it's crazy,” Brennan said. “I don't know where any of this is coming from, so it's really hard for me to comment.” He went on to explain how he had repaved all the sidewalks surrounding Universal even though it was technically the city's responsibility and added, “Of course we're ADA-compliant. That's one of the first things they check. The city never would have let us open our doors if we weren't.”
One person who lives behind Universal but didn't want to give her name said her concerns aren't related to permit or code violations. Her problems are with excessive noise, drunkenness, overflowing trashcans, delivery trucks blocking driveways, public urination happening right around the time the club lets out and go-go dancers who take smoke breaks outside the club “wearing nothing but black bras and underwear,” she said.
“The drunks throw up in our grass,” she said. “Our cars have been vandalized, and I've had to complain about their employees taking smoke breaks on our front steps.”
Councilmember Atkins said her memo was limited to planning and design issues because that's what she heard about from Uptown Planners—the other complaints aren't under the group's purview. But, she added, she's aware of the other issues and is working with the police and Universal on them. A call to Sanders' office was not returned.
Two other community members contacted CityBeat, one who said Rich's, a nightclub across the street from Universal, is also part of the problem and another who said Universal “has ruined the neighborhood of Hillcrest.”
Brennan acknowledges that his club is next to residences, but he says he's held community meetings where “98 percent of the feedback was positive” and has done everything he can to deal with crowd control and noise complaints.
“It's a deemed entertainment district,” he said. “And it's not like we're absentee landlords who put a finger up and act like we don't care. We do care.
“It's an extreme upgrade from what it used to be,” Brennan continued. “Remember when it used to be a peep-show porn shop in an ugly purple building?”—Kinsee Morlan
When Adam Gimbel (Rookie Card) and his cover band, The Blasphemous Guitars, were tapped by FM-94/9 to back up musicians auditioning for a chance to play on stage with Weezer as part of a promotion, they didn't realize that they'd soon be on stage themselves. Station officials “were so thankful that they let all four of us be part of the onstage fun with a dozen or so other lucky musicians,” says Gimbel on his MySpace blog. Blasphemous Guitars—under the name Geezer and dressed as old men—played last Friday night at Cox Arena with Rivers Cuomo and crew on the hits “Island in the Sun” and “Beverly Hills.” And while Gimbel said Cuomo was enigmatic, backstage other members of Weezer seemed interested in the geriatric doppelgangers: “Weezer guitarist Brian Bell came in to join us. He kept looking and smiling at us geezers with our toy pianos and slide whistles. Or maybe it was our nurse.”
Bing Crosby's Restaurant and Piano Bar in Mission Valley has apparently run into some all-too-familiar problems. Wednesday-night shows featuring the gypsy-jazz band Zzymzzy Quartet have been cancelled because the operators are afraid of being fined for not having the proper cabaret license that allows patrons to dance, says guitarist Beston Barnett. “As near as I can tell, we just swung a little too hard and management got frightened of all the great dancers packing the aisles,” Barnett wrote in an e-mail. “Seriously, who knew that four guys in white tuxes with acoustic instruments could cause such a ruckus?”
Speaking of a ruckus, San Diego Music Award winner (for Best Hip Hop Album) MC Flow will shoot her first video, for the single “Incredible,” on Oct. 26 at a makeshift party, and there's open casting for “diverse” extras. Those interested in participating should send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.—Seth Combs
It's possible that DIY pioneer and reclusive San Diego resident Gary Wilson would have permanently remained in obscurity after his withdrawal from the music world in 1981. But in recent years, music archivists and record collectors seem to have willed him back into action, and the musician will make a rare live appearance on Friday, Oct. 24, at UCSD's Che Café.
Recorded in his parents' basement in Endicott, N.Y., the proto-new-wave psychosis of Wilson's 1977 album, You Think You Really Know Me, has been cited as an influence by Beck, Questlove (The Roots) and many others, even prompting indie hip-hop giant Stones Throw Records to release Wilson's “comeback” album, Mary Had Brown Hair, in 2004.
Never a serious candidate for mainstream acceptance, Wilson has nevertheless gained his fair share of media attention in the past few years. Following the 2002 re-release of his first album and the release of Michael Wolk's 2003 documentary You Think You Really Know Me: The Gary Wilson Story, Wilson's profile has risen from complete unknown to fringe icon. Unavailable on DVD until recently, Wolk's film is patchy in spots, but it sheds some light on the recording of the album and Wilson's self-imposed 20-year exile in San Diego.
What happens at Wilson's live shows is hard to predict, but word is that they can include excessive use of flour, fake blood, red paint, duct tape and/or milk. If that's not enough to pique your interest, the night will be hosted (and DJ'ed) by former Germs drummer and psychedelic warrior Don Bolles, whose record collection is supposedly esoteric enough to blow a few minds. The night will also include performances by local minimalist pop group Christmas Island and sound manipulator Mark Lewis.—Todd Kroviak
The Enrique Experience
If Proposition D passes, there would be a permanent alcohol-consumption ban enforced on city beaches and coastal parks. According to Yes on D supporters SafeBeaches.org, San Diego's oceanfronts are “open bars [with] no host, no bouncers, no ID checks.” They suggest that visitors who don't like a booze-free beach should “stay away” and that “residents who don't like it should move.”
On the flip side, the FreePB.org folks think taking freedom away from responsible people is not cool.
“Why punish all for the acts of a few?” asks Carl Gardner, director of campus outreach for FreePB.org and one of the people behind last Friday's Freedom Cruise, a high-seas mixer onboard the Lord Hornblower yacht. “What better way of having a captive audience than by having them on a boat?” Gardner mused.
The Freedom Cruise was a bit like The Love Boat, except, in keeping with the No on D theme, there was a lot more booze.
“I'm thinking about joining the nautical mile-high club,” a girl told her friends as they waited in line for the restroom. Cover band The Full Monty supplied the evening's tunes during the two-hour cruise, their set ending with a compelling rendition of the Cheers theme.
“I'm loving this! Are you open on weekdays?” one reveler asked the bartender as he poured his Captain and soda. He then chugged his drink and proceeded to the center of the dance floor and did a mean robot to AC/DC's “You Shook Me All Night Long.”
After his display of awesomeness, he turned to me and said, “I find that I haven't spent much of my life on boats. The waves kinda cancel out my drunkenness.” —Enrique Limón