January 21, 2021 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Santa Monica Means Business: Temple Bar Plays Its Last Note

Temple Bar, a longtime popular music venue in Santa Monica, is closing after nine years of showcasing a variety of musical acts.

Temple Bar was, in the words of co-owner Louis Ryan, “an iconic cultural venue” that showcased music acts ranging from hip-hop and electronic groups to Brazilian combos to indie rockers to swing bands. The club’s ambience was uniquely relaxed, with an “East-meets-Urban” décor.

Bands and artists who played at Temple Bar included Alien Chatter, Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, Bossa Nova, Cheb I Sabbah, Cape Verde Music World, Goapele, Lily Haydn, Los Pinguos, Quetzal, Quinto Sol, Raphael Saadiq, and Suzy Williams and Her Solid Senders.

Ryan admits that higher commercial rents and uncertain economic times are part of the reason for the club’s closing.

“But my wife and I feel that these venues have life spans. And we just want to go out while it’s still glorious and rich.”

The Ryans, after arriving in LA from New York, opened Temple Bar at 1026 Wilshire Boulevard in 1999, envisioning “a place on the Westside for the world music genre, Latin, hip-hop, to soul, to funk and back.” Ryan had run a successful rock club in New York’s Greenwich Village, but with Temple Bar, he wanted to go in the opposite direction.

A strong influence on the club’s booking was the music played on KCRW-FM, on such shows as Morning Becomes Eclectic. KCRW had its own night once a week at the club; another night was reserved for Brazilian music.

A well-known visual characteristic of the club was the series of huge color portraits of the club’s showcased artists in the front window. These portraits, says Ryan, were done by a Venice artist named John Robertson. He had dropped into the club shortly after it opened to see about having some of his art exhibited. Ryan was initially not impressed.

“You get a parade of artists and some are good and some are not so good. This guy showed up and I gave him the same response as I give a lot of people because you get inundated when you run a club or coffeehouse.”

But Robertson came back with a portrait he’d done of Ryan himself and it was so good that Ryan asked him to do portraits of the artists he booked. There have been over 300 portraits of musicians who appeared on the Temple Bar stage. Some have been bought by the artists themselves, some by collectors.

As for the future, Ryan has taken over the booking at the “speakeasy” in the basement of the historic Town House Bar in Venice. The 3,000 square foot speakeasy space is licensed and has “everything you want for a music venue.” But Ryan says he plans fewer music shows at the Town House as opposed to the Temple Bar’s schedule of 70 bands per month.

“We will do a couple of nights of live music and a couple of nights of DJs. And we will be having some of Temple Bar’s favorites.”

Temple Bar’s last show will be September 30. A set by the band Seneca will precede a farewell party, at which many Temple Bar regulars are sure to show up.

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