“San Diego stands poised to rival such musically friendly cities as Austin, Texas,” says Rafter drummer Andy Robillard, who recently took over booking the Ruby Room. “Now if only we could get those archaic cabaret laws [requiring special permits for dancing] changed. Without those cabaret laws, we could put on a South by Southwest–style festival that could bring millions into our economy annually.”
New owners Sean and Brittni Cute opened the 181-capacity Ruby Room last October in the Hillcrest space formerly occupied by the San Diego Sports Club (and, long before that, Peacock Alley, reportedly the city’s first all-black gay bar).
Robillard — a vet of the Album Leaf and Gogogo Airheart — has tended bar for 12 years at the Casbah, where weekly Anti-Monday League concerts have proven a dependable draw. On Memorial Day, the Ruby Room launched its own no-charge Monday-night residency series, alternately featuring the China Clippers, the Styletones, and Ben Moore (Pocket).
“We in no way view ourselves as competing with the Casbah,” says Robillard. “I still tend bar there on Thursdays and Sundays. We may have similar lineups on occasion, but the Casbah is a legendary venue on par with CBGBs or the Knitting Factory, and trying to compete with that is a recipe for failure. [Owner] Tim Mays has a golden ear. Me, I’m nobody special. I’m just trying to follow his example, curating interesting, creative, and artistic entertainment.”
Upcoming events include a June 10 Metal Fest with six groups (“Did you even know there were six metal bands in San Diego?”) and a June 20 stopover by the Found magazine tour, along with locals Ghost Bird and Republic of Letters.
“The Found show runs two hours with music, a short play, sword-swallowing, and comedy. I really wanted this show — it’s an almost frightening, voyeuristic peek into the American psyche.
“And dancing is encouraged. We have a full cabaret license.”