762 Fifth Avenue, Downtown San Diego
(Has gone out of business since this article was published.)
Erik Stage, owner of the Stage in the heart of the Gaslamp, calls the venue “three floors of entertainment in our haunted house of corridors and mezzanines.” In its third year, the Stage recently underwent a facelift, including new lights, sound system, and flooring.
“We’re trying to create a venue for all types of acts to perform for the busy Fifth Avenue Gaslamp market,” says Stage, “a good mix of bands and DJs with occasional surprises.”
Sure, the Gaslamp is Babylon, but to the Stage’s credit, the bar mixes up the vibe with a range of live music, including reggae, blues, rock, metal, and just about every other genre you might expect from a bar whose aesthetic hinges upon Flying V guitars, a pirate flag, and broken crash cymbals affixed to red brick walls. Thursdays feature a live early-era Van Halen tribute band from 8:30 to 10, followed by dubstep DJs until close.
As part of the regular Seismic night, renowned Los Angeles-via-San Diego DJ 6 BLOCC smashed realities a couple of weeks ago with ruthless dubstep drops shrouded in piped fog and laser beams from the eponymous stage, which is covered in leopard print. Prerecorded go-go dancers spun on a flat screen while another screen explored an animated solar system over the full bar. Downstairs, a DJ mixed drum-and-bass to a small crowd. A lone stripper pole beckoned from the middle of the dance floor. The third floor held an intimate lounge, closed and apparently being remodeled, which overlooked the central stage and dance floor.
On the more economical end of the Gaslamp scene, the Stage offers a small selection of domestics ($5) and imports ($6), both bottled, or the ever-tasteful Pabst Blue Ribbon tall can for a whopping $7.
The Stage’s website touts the byline “Live music venue and Tennessee BBQ,” but for now the menu is limited to classic bar-food selections. Stage recommends their “famous San Diego burrito,” an adaptation of the California burrito.
“It is the ‘anticorporate bar,’” says Stage. “No suits here!”
Hours: 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Happy Hour: $3 beers until 8 p.m.
Food: Classic bar chow
Cover: free to $10ish