Downtown’s VooDoo Lounge to Close

UPDATED: 2:20PM

By Steve Palopoli

Just when the South Bay live music gets back on its own two feet again, along comes something new to kick a leg out from under it. VooDoo Lounge, the 300-capacity nightclub that’s brought the most diverse mix of shows to downtown San Jose for the last 11 years, is closing at the end of February.

While other clubs—most recently the Blank—have owned the scene’s indie-rock cred, VooDoo made its name with a more eclectic mix—just about every week featured hip hop, rock, punk and/or metal, along with every conceivable subgenre. Country outlaw David Allan Coe played the same week as rap freak Blowfly.

About three years ago, VooDoo stepped up its game to pursue national touring bands. Suddenly, bigger acts like Rev. Horton Heat, Coe and the Supersuckers, who been skipping over the South Bay on their tours, were dropping into downtown. So is VooDoo’s shuttering a sign that their agenda was too ambitious?

No, says manager Anthony Hall. It’s true that at over $14,000 $12,500 every month, the rent had to sting. But Hall says what really did in the club was a recent inspection after which the city informed the owners that certain areas—most notably, the “green room” where artists prepare for shows backstage—were not up to code. Estimates on the construction costs were around $60,000.

The confusing part for the VooDoo crew is…why now? All of the architecture the city cited had been in place long before the club moved in. Hall finds it particularly hard to swallow when the club has been trying to do something positive downtown. “Other clubs have these shootings and stabbings,” he says. “We haven’t had one incident in all these years.”

UPDATE/CORRECTION: VooDoo Lounge co-owner Dave Powell reports that some of the information in the original article posted this morning was incorrect because the source, his manager, “had only a vague idea” of what was happening. Corrections have been made in the text.

Powell says the city inspections happened several years ago, and that the city planners, including Lee Wilcox and Joe Horwedel, “have been great.” While he said his monthly rent is not $14,000 as originally reported, he said the $12,500 he does pay is crippling. He said other landlords have dropped rent in recent years due to the economic downturn—Powell also owns the San Jose Bar and Grill, Tres Gringos and the Los Gatos Bar and Grill. —Editor

27 Comments

    • dude you live in downtown.  you know how much money comes in from businesses getting taxed like that that is necessary to get 2nd street looking better?

      the moron landlord booted them, toons, and now zanotto’s is moving because he wants someone that will pay higher rent… in the meantime he has already lost 60,000-80,0000 in rent revenue in a matter of months to vacant properties.

  1. This is the kind of crap that absolutely pisses me off….this is the mindset of the entire state and is the reason why they are in the shitter….good job now they just lost tax revenue.  I bet if you went over the head of the $10/HR idiot that made the call on the retrofits and presented this to the mayor he would work something out

    • And if the club burned down or collapsed because of the code violations you could sue somebody! We have the best of all worlds right here in San Jose!

      • The space they are talking about is about the size of a small office; but needed for bands dressing room and staging area.  It is not a dangerous area for either band members or guests of the venue.

        the city is all usual just using whatever means necessary to run another small business out.

  2. You see, the city of San Jose is a moron!  They screw up the downtown on top of them failing the revitalization effort.  All they need to do is get the heck out of the way.  They make it miserable for the entertainment establishments to be successful.  They(all the city code enforment) need to be fired on the immediately!  They need to lose their jobs quickly.  The city is in turmoil alot sooner than I expected.

    • They(all the city code enforment) need to be fired on the immediately!  They need to lose their jobs quickly.

      Yeah, and you would be the first one crying when your neighbor’s rats are crawling into your property and biting your kids, or your landlord won’t do anything to fix your raggedy a$$ apartment when it starts falling apart or roaches are crawling through your refrigerator. Yeah, fire them all. Let people park their wrecked and broken down vehicles all over their yards with vehicle parts all over the front of the property and blocking the sidewalk. How about boxes of clothes and piles of wood all over the front yard, or garbage smelling up the neighborhood? How would you like it if you couldn’t open your window to enjoy the fresh air, because of the smell hovering around your neighbor’s property, or you couldn’t sit outside in your backyard because of the flies coming from the cause of that smell? What would you do if your neighbor decides to throw his human waste in his yard or maybe they want to store their human waste, in containers on their front porch (oh yes, it happens)? Would it bother you if your neighbor built (without permits) a 20 foot structure on the side of his house, just feet from your house—and the structure isn’t sound? It looks like it is going to collapse. Just may fall on you or one of your loved ones. There is no Code Enforcement. What are you going to do? You probably have NO IDEA WHAT Code Enforcement does for the communities to keep them healthy and safe. All of that just listed is real. If that club were to be the cause of injury to just ONE person, YOU would be one of the complainers. Yeah, go ahead and fire them all. YOU would be the first one whining about something. You ought to be thankful there is a Code Enforcement. Who is the REAL moron here? People like you make me sick! My wish for you is that YOU lose YOUR job. I’m retired so I won’t have that worry.

      • Regarding Blinik,

        The city offices need to switch to decaf coffee or to drug test the employees.  This city hall employee has to much energy and time on his hands.

        • I am not a City Hall employee. I am retired a few years, now. Yes, I do have an abundant amount of time on my hands. Enjoying every minute of it. Thank you for noticing.

  3. Dave Powell, owner said ” It’s unfortunate that our current landlord was unwilling to work on lease terms that would have kept our doors open during this most difficult economic climate. “

    Whoever is Building Owner will have to pay for code violation costs before a new tenant moves it and if VooDoo closes landlord loses $14,000 month rent for months or years

    Is this another of many downtown building owner force outs for hi?gher profits or not ? for

    a) new higher rent tenant

    b) sale to new building owner who requires old tenant to be out as part of deal so new owner can raise rent for higher profits

    c) sale to new building owner who will put their own club and restaurants in building for more profits taking VooDoo Lounge’s customers and profits at no cost

    If building owners is politically connected that would explain why city ignored code violations until it was profitable to old or new building owner

    Who owns the VooDoo Club building and do they have a deal will tell you why building owner isn’t willing to work with VooDoo to pay for code violation construction costs ?

    Does anyone know why since it makes no sense unless there is hidden deal for higher profits ?

  4. I live right next to the voodoo lounge and will be sad to see it go.  Every Weekend we enjoy the music and the scene outside on the street consiting of hoes, grenades, pimps, punks, G’s and other all depending on what is playing that night, will all surely be missed.  Such a show they put on everyweekend without even knowing it.  Gonna be wierd with the silence.

    Toons was too funny as well the crowd there was somthing that you had to see to believe.

  5. “Powell also owns the San Jose Bar and Grill, Tres Gringos and the Los Gatos Bar and Grill.”

    How did “Tres Gringos” become acceptable to city fathers and mothers?  “Gringo” is an epithet in violation of the community standards established by the county board of supervisors on August 19, 2003. 

    If “Tres Gringos” is an acceptable slur in the city’s eyes, the mind boggles about all the other possibilities for naming in this city.  I won’t list them here, but it shouldn’t take too much imagination to visualize equivalent insulting names.

    The city lacks sensitivity all around.  Apparently the city feels it should let the police beat up Mexican-Americans, as well as insult white Americans in official business permits.

    • RELAX!!
      Gringo is a slang Spanish and Portuguese word used in Spanish-speaking and Portuguese-speakingcountries, principally in Latin America, to denote foreigners, often from the United States, the United Kingdom, or Westerners in general. The term can be applied to someone who is actually a foreigner, or it can denote a strong association or assimilation into foreign (particularly US) society and culture. It is used to simply identify a foreigner and does not carry a negative connotation according to the definition in the dictionary of the Spanish Royal Academy, which defines the Spanish language.

      • Hold on there, Dexter.  You missed the memo about everyone having the right to name themselves in our multicultural society.

        And it is the person labeled who gets to decide whether it is or is not a slur.  We don’t care what the Spanish Royal Academy thinks about it.  That would be like consulting an Imperial British dictionary to find out what label to use for Mexican-Americans.

        It is a slur for these five reasons:  (1) It is a name decided by persons other than those labeled which is an act based on a claim of supremacy. (2) It is a label for English-language speakers used to mock and disparage them. 

        (3) It deliberately smothers the diversity among those it labels into one undifferentiated mass.  (4) It is divisive in our contemporary multicultural society which depends on all of us to reduce hate speech instead of defending it.

        (5) And it removes any connotation of nationality, the opposite of the way that the label Mexican-American, for example, illustrates both the sending and the receiving nationalities. “Gringo” is deliberately contrived to strip those so named of their nationality.

  6. this landlord should be responsible for filling this downtown slot, and if he does not, fined $12,500 for each month it’s not filled and activated.

  7. Kind of funny how the city has CODE VIOLATIONS for business in San Jose.  I cannot even get the city or county in the past to shut down illegal garage living.  People living in garages with no heat and running water for a restroom.  We had a house across the street when it was forclosed on had multiple “out” buildings in the back yard for people to live.  One person had dug out under the house an had a cardboard set up.  Great work San Jose!

    • The City has no jurisdiction in a County pocket. You may have called San Jose, but there is nothing San Jose can do, if the residence is on County property.  Unfortunately, the County has some terrible, terrible properties with all kinds of violations and they seem to just let them sit there with no intervention. One side of the street, San Jose, with clean streets. The other side of the street, County, which looks like who knows what. Are you in a County pocket?

  8. Founded in 1971 by Jerome Kozlowski and James Frederick Fox ( died November 25, 2009 ) focusing on investment partnerships especially property acquisition, sales, investments, and management.

    “After the addition of partner W. M. Lyles Company of Fresno, CA,, Saratoga Capital, Inc. evolved into the development, restoration and rehabilitation of numerous properties in downtown San Jose including the Hotel DeAnza, New Century Commons, One North First Street, Century Center and the Ste. Claire Building. Jim’s strong belief in contributing to a vibrant downtown San Jose was a long held passion of his.”

    Saratoga Capital is VooDoo Lounge’s landlord who will not pay for city required repairs

  9. Sorry, I can’t mourn the passing of Voodoo and Toons. Whenever we walked to the movies or theaters Downtown, we basically have had to avoid those spots. The patrons on a hostile bunch, which of course is why these places need security guards. But the guards looked even more hostile. Grim. The places were also dark and dirty. And San Jose wants convention and tourism business Downtown? Ya gotta be kidding.

  10. I’m sorry to hear the City is losing a revenue source at the cost of looking for fees, if that’s really the case.  But bear with my math here:

    1 liter of Absolut = $30 retail
    1 liter = 33 oz
    1 oz Absolut x drink (water not included…)
    1 liter bottle = 33 drinks
    1 drink = $7
    33 drinks x $7 = $231 (net profit $201 from one liter of Absolut)

    700% profit-margin?  Not bad…

    And when was the last time you had just one drink out at a bar?  With a 300-person capacity I have a hard time believing that rent and/or tenant improvements are bankrupting this enterprise.

    do…  the… math…

    • it would be nice if it added up that way, but you gotta think about that $7 per drink includes the 9%+ in sales tax, employee cost, rent cost, cost of cups, cost of whatever the absolut was mixed with, cost of the liqour license (which isnt cheap),cost of sound equipment and upkeep, cost of the entertainment for the night, cost of whatever other licenses are needed , cost of cleaner to clean the vomit that is caused by the absolut, etc. Also, is the club/bar open 7 days a week? or maybe 3 days a week? Rent doesnt go down if you are open 3 days instead of 7.  That takes the 700% profit margin down quite a bit. If it was as simple as you were making why would a club/bar ever go out of business? I have been a part of plenty of bars/clubs. Believe me, i wish it was as simple was bank rolling 700% profit a night.

      • Don’t forget the cost of insurance, workers comp and bull crap legal issues.

        also, the cost of paying fees to the city, alcohol board, permits, police permits, fire permits.

        And of course the cost of paying 1,000’s of dollars a month to lobbyist to protect you from the above.  And cost of campaign contributions to politicians.

        The list goes on and on and on and on………

  11. sorry to see that venue go. great owners. great concept. strong support for live music. blank, south first billiards, and johnny v’s are what remain of weekly live music shows downtown. does not bode well for local musicians….and one wonders why DJs and nightclub nightlife are so prominent today. live music isn’t a money maker. regardless of JW’s fantasies, the margins are small after expenses.