Mystics and scientists have spent centuries debating the effects of mental attitude on physical wellbeing. With apologies to funk-osophers Parliament-Funkadelic, the question can be re-posed in modern terms, "If you free your mind, will your ass really follow?"
After surviving a year in the highly competitive San Diego nightclub business, Kava Lounge is closer than ever to finding the balance of consciousness and craziness.
Named after the mellow vibes and elevated sensitivity people often feel after ingesting its namesake kava root, the Lounge is aimed at creating a space with a subtle, holistic atmosphere its owner, Kristie Aguirre, thought was missing from other clubs. Aguirre spent seven years as a promoter in the San Diego and L.A. nightclub scenes as a part of Merge Events, best known for San Diego club staples such as Dragon Lounge and Project Cathedral, as well as being the first promoters to bring down-tempo and lounge legends like Thievery Corporation and Fila Brazillia to town.
But time had come for Aguirre's own creation, and she wanted it to have more of a purpose.
"We've tried to support small, independent businesses and our local economy. We also really believe in organic farming methods," says Aguirre, noting that all of Kava's beers are from local brewers and the fruit, garnishes and bar snacks are bought from local farms and Growers Direct, a San Diego collective.
Though conveniently located between nightlife staples Bar Dynamite and the Casbah, previous establishments the Crow Bar and the Pirate's Den couldn't make the venue work. In Kava's first few months, the power went out during prime business hours a few times. Without proper ventilation, the room got pretty stuffy. Now, both problems are fixed, but the biggest obstacle remains: the club isn't allowed to have a full liquor license.
"It's tough-we are definitely in our make-or-break phase," Aguirre says. "All cards are on the table. The typical bar-business recipe is based on conventional well-known labels, which allow for higher profits. The real challenge is keeping prices reasonable for the average patron. When the quality of products go up, the profit margin shrinks."
To compensate for the lack of liquor revenue, Aguirre and her bartenders had to get creative. That's why the menu is lined with organic wines, sake-based cocktails and vegan mixers. And kava root is served in a cocktail or-for those who can handle the spine-tingling wallop-in a shot glass.
"We searched a little deeper for the products we chose to serve," Aguirre says. "Musically, we've been able to attract amazing talent who feel our forward concepts."
Highlights of the past year have included stalwarts of the down-tempo and progressive electronica world, such as King Britt, DJ Lorin and J-Boogie's Dubtronic Science. There have also been weekly parties thrown by local DJs like Willow, Mark E. Quark and Chris Cutz. It's also not uncommon to have surprise performers-such as a recent gig from Anoushka Shankar and the after-party for the Thievery Corporation show at 4th & B.
On Sunday, Dec. 11, the Lounge celebrates its anniversary in typically enlightened fashion, with DJs spinning all day, the eco-art of Bridget Roundtree in the adjoining gallery, the progressive political talk of perennial mayoral hopeful Jim Bell and free flamenco, salsa and swing dance classes from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m.