It’s where Stevie Wonder came to jam. It’s where Richard Bona and his bass silenced a room. It’s where Prince sat in the back, just watching world-class performers.
And soon, it’s going to be just a memory.
The Temple Bar, long a bastion of eclectic performances, will close its doors Tuesday, September 30th, for the last time, as owners Louie and Netty Ryan shift their focus to their other venues — Zanzibar, in Santa Monica; Little Temple, in Silver Lake; and their newest venture, The Townhouse with the Del Monte Speakeasy, in Venice.
“It’s the most difficult part of moving on, when you’re coming from somewhere so great,” Louie Ryan says. “It’s a bittersweet time. […] We’re excited about going on and doing something new, but we understand what it means to people because it means the same to us.”
Performers build communities around their music, and the Temple Bar excelled at bringing different genres together. Essential MC, a hip-hop and spoken word artist who performed on a recent night as part of the Sacred Music Festival, used this community to organize the Festival performance at the Temple Bar.
“The Temple Bar is more about the feeling you get when you get here, it’s always had this vibe about it,” Essential MC says. “I felt it would be a good place for it to be intimate.”
Lakshmi Lambert, a local resident attending the Sacred Music Festival performances, says the loss of an active music venue would be felt deeply in the community.
“It’s healthy to go to places where you can dance — I think it’s good for the body, mind and spirit,” Lambert says. “And to have more places where you can just sit down, it’s just not going to be that healthy.”
Jill and Andrea Thomas of Marina del Rey agreed that the atmosphere of the Temple Bar is unique, “not a typical Hollywood pickup scene.”
That atmosphere would be a credit to the Ryans, who came from New York and opened the Temple Bar in 1999.
What was originally an Irish pub became the “cultural crossroads where patrons unwind amidst the vibes created by a community of local, national and international artists,” according to a description on its Web site.
The “Eastern-meets-urban”-themed bar officially kicked off, on “a Sunday night, with the Rhythm Room All Stars, now the Rhythm Roots All Stars,” Louie Ryan says.
Since that night, the venue has seen performances from the likes of daKAH, Ben Harper, Damien Marley, John Legend, members of the Black Eyed Peas, Common, The Roots, and many more, Louie Ryan says.
“The Master Musicians of Jajouka came right after September 11th,” Netty Ryan says. “daKAH’s 50-piece band, Antibalas. “Those were the flavors that made the Temple Bar unique.”
It was the move from New York that prompted the Ryans to open such a culturally diverse venue. After leading the Scrap Bar, a rock-‘n’roll roll bar “where all the performers would go after their concerts at Madison Square Garden,” including such acts as the Beastie Boys, the Temple Bar formed as “the antidote to that, heavily soul, jazz, funk, the music we were listening to at home,” Louie Ryan says.
After coming to Los Angeles, they discovered KCRW, the local radio station, and “were inspired by what they were doing, and felt we could present to the public these kinds of shows,” he says. “Except for Luna Park [on La Brea Avenue], there wasn’t really anybody presenting it.
“It’s about the diversity.”
Security guard Erroll Williams can list names of celebrities ranging from the local, such as USC football coach Pete Carroll, to the internationally known, such as Prince, who would frequent the venue but never performed, he says.
Booking manager Dexter Story talks about the way bass player Richard Bona brought the Temple Bar to a hush, and Louie Ryan recalls the memorable night that Stevie Wonder “literally parted the crowd, with his hand on his guide’s shoulder,” to perform alongside a traditional Mexican band, followed by a hip-hop artist.
But it wasn’t just the established acts that made the Temple Bar unique. It was Prince signing resident DJ Rashida, who tours with Prince and has residencies at several of the Ryans’ venues; it was Sara Bareilles, an indie-rock sensation who broke out on the Temple Bar’s stage; it was Cody Chesnut, who created “a buzz in L.A. like I never saw, he was hailed as a young Jimi Hendrix,” Ryan says.
And the Temple Bar appeal spread beyond the music.
“Poets like Saul Williams had everyone sitting on the floor for hours, listening to spoken word,” Netty Ryan says.
“Diversity through music is the tone we opened the Temple Bar on, and that’s what we plan on continuing to spread throu-ghout Los Angeles,” Louie Ryan says. “This is an amazing time for us, but for us it’s a time to reinvent and it’s liberating.”
Alex Feiglein and his soon-to-be-wife Sabrina will be taking the reins of the venue, operating it under the name “Dako- ta” as a “bar-lounge with live music, and a focus on happy hour,” Ryan says. “We were selective on who we gave it to, because we wanted the legacy to live on.”
The Ryans, meanwhile, will focus on developing their 1930s-inspired Del Monte Speakeasy in the basement of The Townhouse, a place that’s “3,000 square feet, unpretentious and diverse, just the way we like it,” where they will present live music, DJs and entertainment, he says.
“Our favorite thing is to find an empty room and transform it, turn it into something new,” he says. “After ten years, putting on 70 bands per month, it didn’t break us, but it’s like your first love, you never forget it.
“The Temple Bar is a lifestyle, it’s not a physical space and the lifestyle lives on in my wife and I.”
The last band booked to play the Temple Bar is Seneca, an up-and-coming Irish band making its Los Angeles debut. Seneca performs at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, September 30th, and Carlos Nino hosts the “Farewell Party,” which will have “an all-star jam session with a bunch of DJs and secret special guests,” the Ryans say.
“It’s important to us to honor not just the great musicians but also the local people who have supported us, we want them to feel just as important,” Netty Ryan says.
Doors will open for the last time at 8 p.m., and there will be a $5 cover charge. The venue is for adults 21 and over.
Information, www.templebar live.com/.