The fifth incarnation of Java Joe’s, a music venue known as a launching pad for the careers of Jason Mraz, Jewel, and Steve Poltz, will open downtown in early April. Located in a former day spa at 726 Ninth Avenue, the 60-seat room is a joint venture between general partners, namesake Joe Flammini and sound engineer Jon Edwards. The pair met when Edwards relocated to San Diego from Detroit in 1994 and Flammini hired him as a sound man.
The venue will be open seven days a week with a no-cover policy, except for special events. Unlike the last two versions of Java Joe’s, this location will be alcohol-free, focus on acoustic music, and be open to all ages. Flammini plans to keep the staff small. “Part of the appeal was the size of the place,” he said. “Being involved with friends, we could work most of the hours ourselves to keep down employee costs.” Edwards’s wife, promoter Cathryn Beeks, will be involved in booking the venue.
The first Java Joe’s, located in Poway, opened in 1992. It only seated 50 patrons, and Flammini’s enterprise soon outgrew the room. In 1994 he relocated to Ocean Beach’s Newport Avenue, increasing capacity to 149.
In 2000 he moved around the O.B. corner to Bacon Street, adding liquor and a dinner menu. Though the new venue was only two blocks away from its previous location, it never recaptured the former’s glory and closed in 2002. The following year, Java Joe’s moved to the Rolando area, taking over the former location of Kelly’s Pub. This also proved short-lived, with Flammini closing the 142-capacity venue in 2005.
Edwards notes that the idea of not using the Java Joe’s name was briefly considered: “In the beginning, that was brought up, but we decided to use his name for the notoriety and the history it has within the music community.”
Though many established restaurants and music venues are experiencing tough times, Flammini is confident that, this time, Java Joe’s has found a permanent home. “God, I hope so,” he laughs. “The problem with the previous venues is that I tried to expand into too many different areas. This room takes me right back to where I started, a small little coffeehouse with acoustic music.”