I’m always bummed when I hear of the classic punk-rock clubs getting shut down (or in this case, almost never opening).
Someone, somewhere–help Safari Sam’s reopen!
There are times when all of us need to take a moment and take stock of our city and its bureaucracy. I wish tell you a short story of my dream as it turned into my nightmare.
Twenty years ago I opened a club in Huntington Beach, CA called Safari Sam’s with my partner, Gil Fuhrer. We believed that there was a desire by audiences to have a place where punk rock music could intertwine with theater and poetry readings, and would enjoy challenging juxtapositions of art, music, literature, and culture. And we were right. For 20 months in 1985 and 1986, Safari Sam’s was a cultural center that drew people from all parts of Southern California, until the City of HB closed us down for redevelopment. During that time, we had such now famous acts as Sonic Youth and Social Distortion play to the same packed audiences that came out to see Henry Rollins read poetry or a performance of Beckett’s Endgame. It was magical.
Twenty-three months ago I dreamed of opening a new Safari Sam’s club in Hollywood – a venue that would provide a stage to great performers and where we could commingle art, music and theater. Our mission at Safari Sam’s has always been to bring our audience performances that aren’t just directed at our desires, but also at our minds. So, I bought an adult strip club that had been a thorn in the city’s side, and closed it. I then hired an architect, a facilitator for our conditional use and alcohol permits, as well as a consultant to help me move through the different city departments. All I wanted to do was increase the bathroom space, renovate the kitchen, add a mezzanine and put in a second bar.
I like to think that city government is our friend and is there to help us achieve our desired goals. I have a few friends who work in the LA city government and a few other cities like Las Vegas, NY and Huntington Beach. They all told me that my biggest hurdle was the “cover your ass” mentality and process of each department personnel I came into contact with. To my chagrin and amazement they were correct. The city is not there to help people open new businesses; they are there to create hurdles of increasing perplexity that is like moving through a vat of molasses. Most of the people I have talked to that are also trying to open a business would just shake there heads and reply, “It is what it is.” I would think that after spending over $900,000 on opening a club (and of which only about $400,000 has gone to actual construction vs. city fees, filings, permits, etc.) I would be open by now. And yet I am not.
Is it the fault of the permit process that has been established? Probably. Is it the fault of inspectors who seem to find innocuous problems and then take their time to return to make further inspections of our corrections? Probably. Or is it the fault of the goal that as a community we have set to make everything in life completely safe from anything that may happen? What price do we pay as a city when we reduce the opportunity for citizens from affording to open new businesses? The price is reflected when we see mostly national chains and franchises open their doors. Who else can afford the wait?
So here I am now with a club that is 99% ready to open but not able to because of a fire department that is either understaffed or too overworked to finish our final inspections. This last round of delays has finally drained us of the last of our capital. On Sunday my wife and I put our house up for sale and we have come to the realization that we may never open this club. Twenty-three months ago I thought $900,000 would be enough. In my city I was wrong. I now need about $50,000 more to get us through.
I am asking for your help. If you would like to ensure a vibrant music and cultural scene in Los Angeles — something that breaks the status quo — that is an all-ages venue with a 150 free parking spots, then please visit the link below and choose a prize package or simply contribute whatever you think Safari Sam’s will be worth to you. This is an investment in diversity, culture and good music. We want to bring you the most enjoyable place to see, hear and/or perform live music as well as offer thought-provoking entertainment. Please help us so we can do this for you for years to come. Come with us as we develop this laboratory called Safari Sam’s. I promise it will be fun, enlightening and hopefully stimulate questions within ourselves that may change the way we view our fellow man.
To help please go to www.safari-sams.com
Your good Karma will really kick in afterwards.